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THE SHIP: HER STORY
W. CLARK RUSSELL
•the wreck of the "grosvenor'**
* a l o n e on a wide, wide sea*
*my shipmate louise* etc.
WITH 50 ILLUSTRATIONS BY H. C. SEPPINGS WRIGHT
FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY,
Copyright, 1899, By
Frederick A. Stokes Company
T BEG to thank the Proprietor of the Pall Mall Magazine
for his very kind permission to me to republish this volume
of gossip about Ships. But the reader is under a very much
greater obligation to him than this, because he has been good
enough to allow the publishers to use the beautiful, and in many
respects faultless, illustrations by my friend Mr. Seppings
Wright. I am sure the reader will a^ree with me that some of
these drawings are worthy the incomparable pencil of E. \V.
Cooke. My pages will not be accepted as a very learned and
gravely important contribution to the literature of the Ship.
They will be regarded as mere prattle, as we wander about the
ship-building yard. We relate anecdotes ; we crack our poor
joke ; we point to this and point to that ; we tell what we know
and what we believe to be the truth, and if we are wrong we
apologise. Thackeray relates a good deal about the Four
Georges in his Lectures ; but he does not wear, whilst he talks
to us, the judge's wig of the Muse of History : he is not so
austerely official as Gibbon, but he is quite as sincere, and
vi THE SHIP: HER STORY.
possibly more interesting to an Englishman. At the same
time, it is, perhaps, due to myself to say that this book is the
issue of considerable reading and of my life-long admiration of
that most beautiful and sentient expression of the handiwork
of man — the sailing-ship. This said, I will leave the reader
to enjoy Mr. Seppings Wright's delightful pictures.
W. C. R.
Bath : 1899,
TilE ARK . . • .
A TRIREME . . • .
ST. Paul's ship
a chinese junk .
turklsh (jalley at the battle
a ship of tyre *
the flying dutchman
a venetian argosy
a viking ship
the bucentaur .
a genoese carrack
Raleigh's ship . . .
the ship of columbus.
portuguese feluccas .
three-deckers of the armada
spanish galleon, silver fleet
SHIP tempore charles i
TYPE OF ENGLLSH AND DUTCH M
Hudson's * half-moon*
CAPTAIN cook's SHIP
the * royal george*
THE SHIP: HER STORY.
VENETIAN CJONDOLA, UNDER SAIL .
AMERICAN CATAMARAN ....
AN INDIAN HALS A .....
II. M. S. • HRITANNIA ' .
A HLACKWALL LINER ....
THE * TERROR ' AMONCiST THE ICE .
A DEAL (.ALLEY PC NT ....
A IO-(;UN 1U<I(; .....
A RAMSCiATE SMACK IN HEAVY WEATHER
EULTOn's FIRST STEAMER, 1 H E ' CLERMONT*
THE CONFEDERATE CRCISER *ALAliA>Lv'
THE FALL RIVER 1U)AT ^ITRITIAN'
DONALD CCRRIE LLNER * DINOTTAR CASTLE '
WHITE STAR LINER * MAJESTIC*
CUNARD LINER *CAMI'ANIa' .
A MLSSISSIIM'I STEAMBOAT
THE * CREAT EASTERN*
THE CONFEDERATE IRONCLAD, *MERRIMAc'
THE 'MoNFfOR' IN HAMPTON ROADS
THE YACH'T 'AMERICA'
A UNION LINEK .....
THE Flf<ST BRITISH IRONCLAD H. M. S. * WAI
THE * CALAIS-DOUVRES ' IN A(IIANNEL FO( ;
Britain's first line of defeni e
UNITED states CRUISER ^COLUMUIa' .
'THIS SHIP THE *' VICTORY " NAMED ' .
THE SHIP: HER STORY
THE story of the birth of the ship, her launch, her growth
from the * dug-out ' to a P. & O. steamer or an armour-
clad ship-of-war, should prove of interest to the people of
this kingdom. If not to them, to whom? To the Chinese?
To the merry families of the Tonga Islands ? The floating
mercantile property of this wonderful kingdom is valued at
many millions sterling, * and the annual naval expenditure in
defence of it and the docks and ports out of which it sails, adds
many more millions to these figures.
One needs to be born a Chancellor of the Exchequer to
realise the value, the meaning, the numerosity of all these
millions. Yet one thing is certain — they must render the ship
a fabric of grave interest to the people who spend all this money
in building her and keeping her afloat and protecting her.
Built in th' eclipse and rigg'd with curses dark.
That some first ship was built in the eclipse of time none
need question, and that she was rigged with curses dark is
conclusively proved by the traditionary language of the foVsle.
But when was she built? What shape did the experience of
the ship-wright give her ? We speak with careless conviction
of the Ark as the first ship, and of Noah as the first sea com-
mander. But history, as an endless series of reassertions,
1 These articles were written in 1895.
2 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
pronounces in terms disastrous to the reputation of Noah as
a seafarer, in favour of the opinion that in times which make
Abraham as of yesterday the oceans of the world were whitened
with ships — stately, magnificent in device, equipped with
engines of war more terrible than anything which the brains
of Krupp or Armstrong, who labour in the heroic art of teach-
ing how to kill, have yet devised.
Who is to tell us that millions of years ago great fleets of
ships of extraordinary construction were not grappling in the
airy blue ? Human vanity is gratified by the retrospective
gaze that cannot possibly pierce beyond the narrow horizon of
time. We want everything to-day to be better than it was
yesterday. The merits of the past moulder, and we, still
calling ourselves heirs of all the ages, watch the process with
ungrudging eyes. Still, it is rather comforting, all the same,
to find the grand old Ark sweeping into the field of the lenses
of the telescope, which had otherwise in vain searched the
ocean of years for a relic of floating timber !
The Ark is the first ship, then, to human sympathy. Let
her be called the Mother of Ships. Though we need not
too curiously consider her, it is a strange fact, nevertheless, that
the dimensions of this ship (taking the cubit at about eighteen
inches) correspond very nearly with the proportions of a
steamer of to-day. Her burthen was fifteen thousand tons. The
* Great Eastern ' was seven thousand tons larger than the Ark.
Noah, when he laid his keel, designed with strict reference to
the animals and to the living sheets of water that were to descend
from the heavens. He would have needed to build with great
caution, nevertheless, for unless the animals were stalled a
sudden panic amongst them would occasion a dangerous * list.'
Noah seems to have provided against this by building his extra-
ordinary stables upon a gigantic spoon-shaped hull. He required
God's pitiless storm.
4 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
Sir Thomas Browne, a genius of gloriously quaint imagina-
tions, who saw things, as Coleridge puts it, by the light of the
halo of genius that shone about his head, wonders whether Noah
might not have been the first man that compassed the globe ;
' since,' says he, * if the Flood covered the whole earth, and no
lands appeared to hinder the current, Noah must be carried
with the wind and current according to the sun, and so in the
space of the Deluge might even make the tour of the globe.
And since, if there were no continent of America, and all that
tract sea, a ship setting out from Africa without other help
would at last fall upon some part of India or China.'
The circumnavigation of the globe in a hundred and fifty
days would be a smarter piece of drifting than we are likely to
hear of in this age. But nothing is impossible and nothing im-
probable at sea. Lord Nelson used to say. Yet conjectures can
be pushed too far, even by elderly philosophers who read by the
light of nimbuses. The Ark was undoubtedly, as our artist has
represented her, a huge shed or floating stables ; and after she
had stranded on Mount Ararat and lay mouldering there, and
when the waters had drained off the face of the land, the art of
shipbuilding — whatever might have been its state before the
Flood — was to be begun afresh, without any models to help and
with no memories which could be called serviceable to inspire.
Perhaps man was not in a very great hurry to put to sea
after the Flood. Time rolled on ; humanity stuck to the land :
it glanced askant at the water, salt or fresh. Everything then
grows visionary and dim, and nothing comes along but the idea
of a .coloured man of an Asiatic cast of features stealthily and
nervously sculling a hollow log, or holding on with the tenacity
of a first voyager to the blown-out skin of some slaughtered
Whilst voyages were performed by coasting from headland
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 5
to headland, small vessels sufficed. According to Theodosius
the Homeric vessels were open boats. They were flat-floored,
and were apparently clincher-built, and were caulked with
pounded sea shells mingled with stuffs which gave a putty-like
consistency to the whole. This caulking fell out when the
vessel strained, but the ancients took care to carry balers along
with them when they went afloat, and then again the land was
always kept conveniently close aboard.
The art of caulking is extremely ancient, and was as lively
a source of trouble to the mariner of remote ages as the sheath-
ing of wooden ships was to the shipwright of the last century.
The ancients, however, by caulking, prove that they made
their vessels in pieces. They used pitch and wax and pounded
seeds. It is an extraordinary fact that the galley of Trajan
referred to by John Locke, in his * History of Navigation,* was
not only caulked but sheathed. * None can doubt,' says Locke,
* that the sheet of lead nailed over the outside with copper nails
was sheathing, and that in great perfection.* They had this
art about eighteen hundred years ago. It was recovered when
a galley of Trajan's time was found at the bottom of Lake
Riccio ; and the hint was taken in this country, and lead was
used for sheathing British merchant ships many years earlier
than 1673, in which year an order was issued by the Lord
High Admiral to sheathe some of the ships of war with lead.
It is worth noticing here that, though a few ships were thus
sheathed, the practice was soon afterwards discontinued at the
instance of Sir John Narborough, whose hostility to this dead
weight was supported by many sea officers.
There were almost as many different sorts of ships in ancient
times as there are in this age. We speak, for example, of the
full-rigged ship, the barque, the brig, the schooner, and so forth.
Our artist submits a noble example of the trireme. They had
6 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
th^ gatilos, a lumpish craft for freight ; the olkas, a barge for
towing ; corbita, ships which carried canvas and baskets at their
mast-heads. Some of these old craft came down, sHghtly
modified and perhaps enlarged, and no doubt improved, into
the Middle Ages, and even into later times, and were called
galleons, and galeases, and galleys. Those old craft of bulky
structure, and sides and bottom rounded from the flat, were
gloriously decorated. A purple sail blew the Admiral's ship
along. They painted eyes on their bows, after the manner of
the Chinese of to-day. They had figure-heads, as our ships of
wood had. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a ship without a
figure-head. Sometimes they erected busts of gods and
goddesses on what may safely be called their * prows ' ; mainly
they went to the forest and the field for devices for their curved
and lofty stem-heads. As in modern times — that is, as late as
the days of the Spaniards of Frobisher s and Hawkins's time —
so anciently, the ship's company were divided into two classes ;
they had mariners for the sails, and men who were usually
slaves for the sweeps or long oars. They sometimes pulled to
the music of the pipe, more often to the crack of the lash.
One of the earliest of the boats of the Briton is the coi-acle. If
we float her side by side in imagination with the latest launched
of our battle-ships, we shall discover why her appeal to us should
be direct and eloquent. The Briton was quietly fishing in her
when galleys of burden were afloat, and the waters of the
Mediterranean were being painted by sails of crimson and other
dyes. Caesar notices the coracle : * The fishermen on the Tewi
and some of the other rivers of Wales use a boat of singular
construction, called in Welsh corwgl, which is probably coeval
with the earliest population of the island/ The form of the
boat \vas nearly oval ; its length was from five to six feet,
its breadth four feet. The frame was formed of split rods
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 9
plaited ; these were sheathed with raw hides. The boat was
so light that it was easily carried on the back. Those were
the days when * wild in woods the painted Briton ran,* and
some who ran had boats on their heads. Such a runner, thus
equipped and delicately painted with the juices of his native soil,
might fitly, in the hands of a dexterous and poetic framer of
symbols, be made to typify the birth of the British Navy.
The state of shipping, however, in Britain in the days of
the coracle was melancholy. The shipowner of that day was
satisfied with small profits. We meet with movement and life
by going abroad again. Take St. Paul's ship, for example.
She was a Mediterranean merchantman, and stands as a type.
There were no foreign departments in anyway representing the
Board of Trade in those days of the dawn of Christianity ; dock
dues may be of modern growth, but one may not say that the
ancient skipper was not often enraged by excessive port and
harbour charges. Yet, if such were, they yield us no clue
to the burthen of ships in tonnage. * It is remarkable,* says
\V. S. Lindsay, * that while we have many notices of matters
comparatively unimportant, no writer of antiquity has given
us any intelligible account of the capacity of their ships of
burthen, at least anterior to the Christian era.*
This worthy historian of the commercial flag of Great
Britain quotes with approbation from a treatise on the voyage
and shipwreck of St. Paul, written by * Mr. Smith of Jordan
Hill.' Mr. Smith tested as a yatchtsman the details furnished
by St. Luke. He also worked out the 'dead reckoning' of
St. Paul's ship. He affirms that she was a vessel of no mean
burthen, since, irrespective of a large load of grain, she carried
226 people. Mr. Smith seems not to doubt that she was
decked : her voyage was a long one, and, as it happened, a
boisterous one ; the seas that ran must have foundered any
lo THE SHIP: HER STORY.
open fabric, though of twice the bulk of St. PauTs ship. It is
presumed, indeed, judging from the number of her passengers,
that she carried two decks, likewise a high poop and forecastle,
and her bulwarks were framed of battens secured horizontally
across the stanchions. It is worth noticing that Mr. Smith
concludes, from a painting he saw at Herculaneum, that the
ancient sailors were acquainted with the use of the capstan
and the hawser.
Here and there, in reading of the early ship, one meets
with statements which must astonish a seaman. We all know
from Homer that the anchor was a stone secured by ropes to
the bow. An undecked craft light as a Madras surf-boat
would, no doubt, ride safely thus moored in smooth water.
As the world grew older an anchor superior to stones was de-
vised. Pliny ascribes the invention of the anchor to the Tus-
cans. Strabo is the authority for the statement that the second
fluke was added by Anacharsis the Scythian. Ships, as in our
times, went to sea with several anchors. St. Paul's ship car-
ried four, and in the gale they let ' them ' go by the stern,
which may have saved the life of the ship, for had she bowed
the seas then running there is good reason to suppose, from
the character of her shape forward and the appearance of
her amidship section (which painters represent as a danger-
ous well-deck), that she would have gone down.
The sailor will be surprised to hear that those early Jacks
went to sea equipped not only with chain cables but with
anchor-buoys in the form of great cork floats. Though for a
long period, running maybe into centuries, the rig of the ancient
ship was of the simplest kind — namely, a large square sail, and
occasionally a sort of mizzen — yet in some respects the hulls
of vessels of burden, such as the grain-carrying craft, were
equipped according to modern notions. We read of the ship
THE SHIP: HER STORY. ir
of Theseus as being completely decked and furnished with a
little skylight. Whether the growth of shipping was retarded
by the seaman's very imperfect and dangerous art of naviga-
tion, or whether it was arrested by lack of all impulse, by ab-
sence of all ambition to look abroad and observe if the earth
was larger than the little piece of Europe with which the
ancients were acquainted, may be left to the * nautical experts'
to settle. No doubt the ancient seaman was very poorly
equipped with the means of finding his way about the sea
when out of sight of land. He had the gnomon, with which
he measured the length of the ship's shadow at noon. Other
instruments — probably the lead and quite likely the reel log
— he may have had, to judge of the account given by Arrian
of his shipwreck. But the ship grew with the expansion of
man's ambition and the increase of his needs.
Ships of considerable bulk were employed by the Romans in
the grain trade between Alexandria and the rest of Egypt.
Their character may be to a certain degree determined by the
picture of the ship of St. Paul. It is to be assumed, however,
that the navigation was largely dependent on their oars. It is
impossible to suppose that vessels rigged as they were could
ply, or, to use the modern expression, beat to windward. They
might haul flat aft the sheet of their mainsail ; but nothing,
one would think could coax a craft with a stern like a castle
and a bow literally like a moated grange, into looking up to
within nine points of the breeze. The lee sweeps did the
business of the bowline, and the curious structure was washed
along by the rowers.
Probably one of the oldest types of ships is the Chinese
junk of to-day. A representation of an ancient Chinese mer-
chant vessel exhibits a structure that might very well be afloat
off Hong Kong at the present hour. Perhaps shipbuilding
12 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
has to this day languished in China owing to the Chinaman's
inability to grasp a few elementary geographical facts. For
centuries John considered the whole earth as one flat surface :
in the midst of this vast marsh or face of country stood China.
It was the Empire of the Middle. If the Chinese mariner
sailed but a little distance away from the Coast of Flowers he
was certain to come to the edge of the earth and fall over-
board, his junk, his wife, his children and all, down the horri-
ble abrupt into an unimaginable chaos.
It is not to China, nor to her history, that we must look for
anything useful, interesting or romantic in the story of ship-
building. It is worthy of notice, however, that some of the
small boats in use amonorst the Chinese for river and short
coast traffic very closely resemble the ancient boats of Britain.
They are described as consisting of five planks only ; these
planks are bent by heat, shaped at either end, and the edges
secured with wooden pins or with flexible thread of split bam-
boos. China has now her ironclads ; but the junk and the
coracle-like paro remain the philosophy and the sentiment of
her navigation and her politics.
Nearchus was despatched by Alexander, the Macedonian
conqueror, with the greater portion of his fleet, to the Eu-
phrates, whilst the monarch proceeded with a large body of
his army by land to Susa and Babylon. One would wish to
know the size and character of the ships of Nearchus. No idea
can be formed of them beyond this : that they were much too
small to boldly put to sea ; they sailed or rowed by day, and
came to an anchor by night They contrived, however, to
measure sometimes as much as eighty miles in hours of day-
light ; but the average run seldom exceeded twenty-five — a
progress of some two and a half to three miles an hour. We
can only suppose that these vessels, together with a great many
others then afloat belonging to other nations, were much of that
ST. PAULS SHIP
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 15
sort of galley which our artist has represented. They were
deep-waisted, but then they carried high sterns and a kind of
castle in the bows, so that forward and aft, if not amidships,
they provided the officers and everybody in the ship, save the
unhappy wretches slaving at the sweeps, with plenty of free-
board. Those ancients, like the mariners of mediaeval times,
did not love salt water. They strutted dry on the height of a
forty-foot ' dip.* The ocean looked to roll as far below them
as it does to a young apprentice of to-day grappling with the
mizzen-topgallant sail of an iron- clipper.
There was a great deal of trafficking with Ceylon in olden
days, and we read that the merchants of that island had a
numerous fleet of their own. What sort of ships these were it
is impossible to say. Some have supposed the bigger ones
amongst them to resemble those fine Turkish galleys of which
our artist gives an example. It is not to be conjectured, how-
ever, that these Singhalese craft carried the bravery and the
glory which were heaped in devices upon the war galley of the
Turk until she shone like a ray of sunshine on the sea. The
Ceylon boats of to-day suggest no native progenitors. What
they were in the sixth century remains that century's secret.
Their craft of to-day are built upon the models of other
nations ; the idea of their canoes is stolen from the islanders
of the Eastern Archipelago, and their ballams are borrowed
or copied from the vessels of Malabar.
Indeed, on this side of the Flood down to the times of the
Portuguese caravels and the Spanish galleons, one finds little to
interest, little indeed to comprehend, in the story of shipbuild-
ing. It is not interesting to learn that the vessels in which the
Goths made war, cruising here and there, and landing their sav-
age forces as they listed, had narrow sides and broad bottoms,
and were joined together without fastenings of brass and iron.
THE SHIP: HER STORY. rg
There are two ways of looking at a ship : the historian's and
the shipwright's. Gibbon, for example, speaks of the 'curious
and minute detail of the armament which was prepared for the
reduction of Crete * ; but this minute detail consists only of the
number of the galleys employed, though indeed reference is
A SHIP OF TYRE
made to seventy-five vessels of the Pamphylian style. One can
learn nothing from this sort of minute detail. One wants to
hear the shipwright speak. Of whattimberwere those galleys
built ? By what machinery were they steered ? How were the
20 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
people berthed ? Did they lie under shelter, or did they stretch
their limbs along the thwarts, or lie in the bottom of the boats ?
Possibly the descriptions of the uniremes, biremes, triremes,
and so forth, may stand as likenesses of the craft of later ages.
If so, then once for all we shall think of a war galley, with
her stem and stern built high above her deck. Under a highly
ornamented canopy is the image of the tutelar deity of the boat.
She carries a flagstaff and hoists signals on it. She might
carry a lantern on her stern. Her short mast is surmounted
with a military top, whence the combatants let fly their darts
and arrows. Her oars vary according to her burthen : we read
of oars of from fourteen to fifty-seven feet long. That the
galleys of the Romans and the ancient Greeks may be accepted
as types which succeeding ages renewed or repeated with but
small modification is proved by the resemblance of those
ancient craft to the galleys of the Venetians and the Genoese.
But I pass from these old galleys to more romantic ex-
pressions of the shipbuilding yard.
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 21
THERE is nothing less intrinsically beautiful than a ship
of the days of Da Gama, or of Columbus, or, later still,
of Raleigh ; yet there was no sort of water-borne fabric
built so charged with the peculiar poetry of the sea and that
kind of heightened quality of the grotesque which by moonlight
or at a distance by day comes very near to beauty. We could
not possibly manufacture the * Flying Dutchman ' out of any-
thing launched this century. Think of a four-masted ship, with
her dreary black-and-red hull, her iron masts, her metal shrouds,
her short poop or long flush-deck, her bewildering complication
of double yards — think of such a ship luminous with the sea-
glow, breasting the surge of the Cape. Accurst ! Impossible !
She never could make a * Flying Dutchman ' in the spiritual
meaning of that terrific sentence of doom. Vanderdecken
would refuse command. He would jump overboard in his
great boots, clutching his yard of pipe to his heart, and so
would end one of the most poetical legends in all sea literature.
No ; the phantom could not survive such a shock. The
four-master in taking her place would, with thundering canvas,
thrash the memory of her out of the seaman's mind. But in
that seventeenth-century craft in which the profane and stub-
born Dutchman put to sea he is still to be encountered. Doubt
it not. Nothing to the north of 34° south ; but down there, on
soft, misty, moonlit nights, the spectre glides into being ; the
vision shapes itself into a fabric of stair-like poop, and a tall,
22 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
pale man, with a long, white, rippling beard, standing beside
the helm, *all silent and all damned,' as Wordsworth says ; or
she flies past over mountainous seas, leaps, as it were, out of
some sudden shriek of storm and wool-white squall of foam —
leaps and dissolves like the sea-flash swelling from her bow.
The poetry of this ship is in the craft of her time ; it is wild,
grotesque, rugged. We do not lose it until vessels grow to be
very much alike — when a line of three-deckers has the sameness
of a row of cottages, when you can't tell one frigate from
another, one Blackwall liner, one Aberdeen clipper from another
until she has made her number. It seems probable that the
early Britons got most of their ideas of shipbuilding from their
invasion by the enemy. The master of a coracle would be as
much amazed by the apparition of the big galleys of Caesar as
were the natives of San Salvador by the ships of Columbus.
We know that in two of Caesar's galleys alone there were three
hundred men. It has been calculated that the average burthen
of those invading galleys was one hundred tons. Now, one
hundred tons to a coracle must have been as is a thousand tons
to a ten-ton cutter. If the ancient Briton had the seafaring
instincts of his posterity, he would have seen much to admire
and to imitate. It does not seem, however, when our early
forefathers, stimulated by the results of their commerce with
the Romans, turned their attention to shipbuilding, that they
produced with that sort of success which might have hinted at
the future that lay before the country. Probably their little
merchant ships in years not long subsequent to the arrival of
Claudius were much after the pattern that one sees on the
seals of ancient corporations — such as Sandwich, Poole, Dover,
Faversham, and other ports. The growth of the ship, in our
country at all events, is here depicted in unintentional carica-
ture. A seal, it is true, does not offer a larcje surface. The
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 23
artist, moreover, wrought with primitive cunning ; he squeezed
perspective out of proportion, and the crew of his Sandwich
ship, two of whom are jockeying a yard, are big enough to
swallow the vessel. Yet these old seals provide a fair rep-
24 THE SHIP; HER STORY.
resentation of a species of craft whose ugliness and general
unfitness would be in this age beyond the inspirations of
nightmare itself to body forth. The hull of the Sandwich
ship exhibits on the whole the cleanest lines ; her sheer is not
preposterous. The seal proves that a.d. 1238, English ships
carried canvas which was furled aloft as now. The Sandwich
craft also carries a longboat right amidships. The Poole ship,
on the other hand, seems to have been the model adopted by
the German toy-makers for their uncouth, gaudy ships for
children : she floats on her garboard streak ; her sheer is pro-
digious, and each end is castellated. We know the bow by
seeing the anchor ; but stern-way or head-way must have been
all the same to this craft of Poole, after making every allow-
ance for pictorial misrepresentation. This ship carries a
single mast, with a yard across and a sail.
It is interesting to contrast these early English ships with
vessels which were then afloat in the Mediterranean and
gradually growing in bulk and beauty. We submit as a con-
trast a representation of a Venetian argosy. The ship of
Dover, according to the seal of a.d. 1284, exhibits the same
distressing disproportion of sheer which is found in the Poole
craft. Why did those old people build such very high sterns ?
No doubt, to provide against being pooped. When a great
sea boils over a ship's stern, carrying the wheel, binnacle, com-
panion, and much other furniture along with it, she is said to
have been * pooped.' The old builders foresaw this peril ;
they knew that if the gale overtook the craft she must * run'
for it. Whilst she could be kept before the seas her castel-
lated defences aft, rising into a poop-royal, would serve as a
breast-work; if she broached to, the large hollow structure
at either end would prove servicable for buoyancy. But I
should consider, after a careful examination of the hulls of the
A VENETIAN ARGOSV
26 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
be praying to a star — he is probably an officer giving orders to
the men on the yard. The seal of Michael Stanhope, Vice-
Admiral of Suffolk, submits a ship of somewhat later date
than those of Dover and the other ports. Here is a ship of
four masts ; a row of little cannon grins along her side ; an
affrighting beak projects half her length beyond her stem ;
she is exhibited with nothing but lower masts ; the anchor is at
the cathead ; and the sail, glorious from the Herald s hand,
swells from under her round top; the rigging is rattled down
— in short, here is something that begins to look like a ship.
The art of shipbuilding in this country obtained a direct
stimulus from the charter of Edward I. to the Cinque Ports.
These ports were bound to provide fifty-seven ships when-
ever the king crossed the sea. Hastings, Bekesbourne, Rye,
Winchelsea, Dover, Folkestone, Faversham, and Sandwich
with Deal, with a few other places, were the towns which were
obliged to contribute. The Britons were in advance of most
nationalities to the extent of their traditions of chastisement ;
their coasts had been*visited by many enemies ; and, if it was
a lone time before our ancestors took it into their heads to
build a stout, though by no means a tall ship, it was not be-
cause they wanted models.
Take the ships of the Norsemen, the famous ships of the
Vikings. They were familiar objects, known not, indeed, all
the way from China to Peru, but quite as far as distance and
travel then went — namely, from Iceland to Constantinople ;
they defied the seas and smoked through the ocean when other
sailors of their day were creeping along shore with faces gloomy
with anxiety and uneasiness ; they were rovers and were fired
with the spirit of piracy, and their little ships were wonderfully
well desio-ned for the red trade of the raw bone and no quarter ;
they were so confident of success— //z^' knew the life of the sea,
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 27
the dogs! — that they carried lumber-vessels with them stored
with slaves, provisions, and munition of war, and when the
prize fell easily into their hands the lumber-ship was loaded
Those who built the vessels of the Vikings were men of
exquisite skill in their craft. They went to the sea for ideas.
They eyed the wheeling gull ; they studied the motions of the
fish. Clearly they produced out of themselves without refer-
ence to what had been done elsewhere. The remains of a
plank-built boat were unearthed in Denmark about half
a century since. She was supposed to have been as old as
the fifth century ; her measurement was seventy-seven feet
from stem to stern. It does not appear that she borrowed
help from canvas. The rowers dipped their oars in chase^
and flashed the delicately-shaped structure through as fast as
a gale of wind could have driven her. Her sheer, her li nes, are
those of a clipper ship. The Yankees might have borrowed
the hint of their beautiful Baltimore clippers from her.
She will stand for the typical ship of the Vikings whose
fabrics may be thus described : they were clinker-built, * of
unpainted oak; the keel was secured to the frame by iron
spikes and scarfing. In some of the ships bast cord was em-
ployed to fasten the clabboards or planking to the frame
timbers ; in others the planking was secured by withes manu-
factured from the roots of trees. The typical Viking boat was
caulked with loose hair of the beasts of the field, but some
suppose that moss was also used. The beams of the vessel
rested upon the top of the frames. She was pierced for oars.
She carried a steering oar on the starboard side, and there is
reason to believe that this helm was fixed, whether it was
submerged to leeward or lifted high to windward. A writer,.
^Clincher or clinker, pronounced with the k.
28 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
whose name I am unfortunately unable to quote, speaking of
this rudder, says: 'This was the general, though not the
universal custom, until the last quarter of the fourteenth cen-
tury. The rudder is so represented on the Nesland church-
door pillar, the time being 1242 ; whilst the ** dragon ship" on
the Bergen seal shows the helm astern. On the other hand,
Lubeck's seal, 1249, a tomb in St. Denis, 1250, and the seals
of Dover, 1281, all represent the helm on the starboard side.'
It is entirely consistent, however, with the history of British
shipbuilding that the early shipwrights should have been
reluctant and slow in their adoptions from foreigners or foe-
men. We were quick to borrow ideas, but in insular fashion
we waited until they were brought to us. Abroad they were
making a fine art of the industry, whilst we were rendering our
home waters hideous with grotesque and monstrous shapes.
What could float with a more dream-like carriage, with her
curling pennon and gorgeous canopy, than the ship of the
Doges of Venice? Steinitz, in an account of the * Origin and
Progress of the Ship,' preserves a description of two ships
built by the Genoese for Louis IV., King of France. They
were alike, he says. Their measurements appear to have been
misstated. The picture of one of them represents a fabric
finely lined, with a good but not a ridiculously dominating
sheer of bow ; she is handsomely moulded aft, and is promis-
ing apparently in all needful stability; she is rigged with
a lofty mainmast spanned by an immensely square yard.
Steinitz speaks of a fore-yard, but in the picture before me
there is no foremast. *Four thousand ells of spun hemp to
supply cordage, &c., was allowed to every ship, and they had
six cotton sails ; . . . each ship had twenty-six iron anchors '
(probably for distribution); ... 'the two ships were to be
furnished with stabling to carry one hundred horses between
A VIKING SHIP
THE SHIP: HER STORY. xj
them, and they had fourteen hawsers for fastenings or moor-
ings in port. The cost of these two ships with all their stores
was fourteen thousand livres Tournois.*
A peculiar interest attaches to the ships of the Genoese.
Unfortunately, little reliance is to be placed on the descrip-
tion given of them. Lindsay falls foul of Admiral Napier
(who was a post-captain in the Royal Navy when he wrote his
book), for affirming that a Genoese craft could spread a single
sail containing fifteen thousand square feet of canvas. The
figure Napier represents the ship to have made is certainly an
extraordinary one. Although she was only two hundred and
seventy tons (in our measurement) the girth of her mast was
thirty-eight feet ! This beats the rig of that mighty vessel
which was so loftily sparred that young sailors who climbed
her masts to furl her canvas descended grey-haired and
wrinkled men. Napier, proceeding, quotes from Cambi, who
represents this wonderful ship to have been furnished with
seventy cabins and a longboat of a capacity of seventy-two
tons. * This,' says Napier gravely, ' was the largest vessel
that had been seen in a Florentine port for a long time, and
no ordinary seamanship must have been necessary to manage
so unwieldy a sail as she seems to have carried.'
There can be no doubt that the competition of maritime
supremacy between the Italian republics greatly promoted
the science of shipbuilding. Whilst they were foemen they
laboured to produce the best fighting ships; when they were
at peace their business and their ambition was to produce a
handsome and a remunerative class of merchant ships. The
Genoese were happy in their designs, but their taste in decora-
tion was so bad that it is scarce imagrinable of the savaees of
the South Seas. The nobles' craft, however, the heroic ship
designed for the great, for princes, for persons of wealth and
32 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
importance, was lifted into dignity by the magnificence of her
furniture. It would be impossible to figure the carvings and
ornaments heaped upon the bows and sterns of these ships.
Ancient tradition still clung, and those early mariners loved
to gild their craft. It is William of Malmesbury who records
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 33
a gift made by Harold, King of Norway, to Athelstan : it is a
ship adorned with a golden prow ; her sail was purple and her
bulwarks were lined with shields. The Genoese seem to have
admired this sort of thing. If they painted their ship white
they must needs j^-ive her a wall-paper look by covering her
sides with vermilion crosses. Sometimes their ships floated
in black and white in a foliage-like intermingling. When the
ship's side was of a dead black all the ornamentation was of
a dazzling crimson.
But the Genoese were not the only offenders in this wild
love of water pageantry. There is extant a description of Sir
Philip Sidney's funeral, extracted from the * Book of Fune-
rals ' of Nicholas Dethick, Windsor Herald; and this is how
the ship in which his body was conveyed to England was
equipped : * Whose corse was the 4 of November brought up
the river Themmes in his barke, all blacke sayles, masts,
yardes, &c., with blacke auncient streamers of blacke silk, and
the saide ship was hanged all with blacke bayes and scochions
thereon on past bord (with his and his wyfes impale helme
and crest).' Our ocean conceits of to-day are happier, if less
picturesque, than these mediaeval vagaries.
Of all the parts of the old ship, whether of the Genoese or
any other nation, the stern — its shape, its decoration — seems
the detail that gave the shipwright most trouble. We in our
time have seen square sterns yield to round sterns, and these
to the elliptical form. Last century and in this they had a
narrow-headed stern, and the ship that carried it was called a
Pink. Mr. Thearle, in his excellent little work on naval
architecture, declares that in no part of a wooden ship have
differences in style been more marked than in the stern, *and
the problems in laying off,' he adds, * have been similarly in-
34 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
There lies before me an old book by a shipwright ; he
undertakes to teach the world how to build ships. He says
his book is the product of thirty-two years' experience ; * for
'tis very well known/ says he, ^that I have been so long im-
ploy'd in her Majesty's service and that of her royal prede-
This old gentleman was dejected by the suspicion that his
noble calling was looked down upon. If he be right, his
statement may perhaps exp'iain how it happens that the art of
the shipwright in England in design and equipment made
hardly any progress, spite of the influence and teaching of
the foreigner, from the days of the Charleses down to the time
when our capture and appropriation of French hulls obliged
us out of admiration to copy them. Nor will this take us
back much more than a century. But let us hear the old
gentleman : ' Besides, the proper Business of a Shipwright is
counted a very vulgar Imploy, and which a Man of very in-
different Qualifications may be master of. Many have as
mean an Opinion of it as a certain gentleman w^ho told one
of our former Master Builders, that he had a Blockhead of a
Son uncapable to attain any other Trade unless that of a
ship-carpenter for which he designed him.* This old author
is very desirous that a ship first of all shall be beautiful, but
he requires that her adornment shall prove no detriment to
her qualities as a sea-going vessel. What is his idea of
beauty? Hear him : * A ship may, and indeed ought to, be
formed as near a globular figure as can possibly be allowed
with respect to the other conveniences that will be requisite
in managing of her.' Happily the contemporary shipbuilding
world was not to be wholly influenced by this old grumbler.
Instead of launching ships shaped like globes, so that you
would have to look over the side for the rudder to tell one
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 35
end from the other, they built a ship about two and a half,
and occasionally two and three-quarters, longer than she was
broad. In Queen Anne's time the shipwright was not retro-
grading, but his advance beyond the Elizabethan period had
been by no means considerable, nor in any way proportionate
to the advantages he possessed over the builders of the ships
of Drake and Hawkins. Our artist has given us a sketch of
one of the ships in which Sir Walter Raleigh sailed or had
command. It will be seen that she was a tub, metaphorically,
but she was not a globe. She is extremely interesting as an
example of the advance of shipbuilding since the times of
Henry VI. I observe that this vessel is portrayed as without
top-gallant sails. Raleigh, in his * Remains,* speaks of top-
gallant sails as having been introduced in his day, along with
many other details of ships furniture of interest to the ma-
rine student. This ship was a lumbering man-of-war, and is
covered with sails, of which many have long since been dis-
carded. The sprit-sail and the sprit-sail topsail, blowing the
first from the bowsprit, the second from a little mast on the
top of the bowsprit, disappeared somewhere about the close'
of the last century or the beginning of this. The bonaven-
ture has been furled for ever. The cross-jack yard has pre-
served its name ; but it has been squared by the lifts, and no
longer makes a lateen sail of the cloths which it spreads.
This type of ship was practically afloat down to the middle of
the last century, and perhaps later. She was changed only in
rig — that is, she was more loftily equipped.
The English shipments dream of safety and stability lay for
years and years in the magic word * beam.* There was so
much beam that it ended in being nearly all bow, and sailors
looking over a ship's head would growl that she could shove
an empty bottle a mile along with her. Beam is a very good
36 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
thing, but when it's overdone (and it used to be shockingly
overdone) it rolls horribly. 1 have seen a craft, whose length
was a little more than three times her breadth, rolling lightly
but deliberately in waters in which not a pulse of swell was
visible or expressed by the movement of shipping about her.
She was an old ship ; she cherished her memories ; she had
been born to roll, and nothing short of stranding her could
have stilled her.
E CAR RACK
Sir Richard Hawkins speaks with heat of the behaviour of
the courtly gentlemen who volunteed for the sea in his time.
Nausea drove them out of the service ; they could not endure
the rolling. Many of the unhappy gentlemen were clad in
armour, and the weight of their apparel ran them from side to
side or threw them. They were wise to give up. On the field
of battle these gentlemen might have covered themselves with
glory, but how could they flourish a sword or take aim with a
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 2>7
piece of artillery when they were too ill to stand ? It is only
necessary to think of such ships as Dampier's and Anson's to
appreciate the sort of love the mariner of that and an earlier
age would cherish for the shipwright. Dampier's ship, the
' Roebuck/ was not only a globe, in our old shipwright's sense,
but a sieve after the pattern of a basket. All the way round
the world it was pump, pump, with those livelies from morn
till night ; and the ship nearly broke the great heart of the
buccaneer. He left her bones off the island of Ascension, and
was not a little rejoiced when he found himself upon the com-
parative tt7'ra firma of the deck of one of some ships that had
looked in at the island.
The 'Centurion's' consort, as every reader of Anson's
memorable voyage will recollect, occupied weeks in striving
to measure on a bowline the distance that separated her from
Juan Fernandez. From the island they would see her hull to
the water line, and believe by next day she would have
'fetched' in; but next day nothing but her topsails showed
above the sea-line ; they disappeared, and then for a week she
was crawling now on one tack, now on the other, out of sight.
Sailors in olden days must have been sheep-like in patience.
It is true that when a man made sail from the Thames he
went prepared for months, running into years, of salt water.
The patience I refer to is the capacity of enduring the hind-
rance of light head-winds, the abortive struggles of the precious
round-bow driven through it dead to leeward, with the yards
fore and aft ; above all, the long calms of the tropics, when the
fresh water stank, when the ship's bread crawled on the toes
of the innumerable sea-worm that dieth not, when the scurvy
was clapping the grinning mask of anguish and death upon
your shipmate's face, and when, if you looked over the ship's
bide into the sea, the water burnt, the sea-snakes revolved in
38 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
wheels of fire, and you saw things with the eyes of Coleridge's
Ancient Mariner. But those seamen who thus endured were
the men who mastheaded the flag of your country. Honoured
be their names ! It would be absurd to say that we shall not
look upon their like again. They are with us in their children.
But I say, hat in hand, with deepest reverence, when I think
of their ships, their slender equipment, the unknown, measure-
less seas of those ages, that the sailor of old times was a man /
Before I return to the ship as a ship, let me say a few
words about the lancruaq^e with which the old craft was han-
died ; and my reference will be scarcely less applicable to thie
shipboard work of the sisters of the * Great Harry,* than they
strictly are to the times when Gay was writing * All in the
Downs,' and Swift was describing a storm at sea in * Gullivers
Travels.' Swift's storm at sea ! Did you ever read it ? Did
you ever read the little book out of which he almost bodily
lifted it? It is called * The Mariner's Jewel,' and it is the
work of one Mr. James Love. No doubt the shipwright as
well as the ereat satirist found it a useful little volume. It
told him how to discover the burden of ships and how to rig
them, how to make and proportion masts and yards, * with
several other things needful to be understood by all sorts of
The old fellow figures a ship in a variety of situations.
The seamen get their anchor, and old Love, probably with
a speaking trumpet under his arm, sings out the following
orders: 'The wind is fair, though but little, tho' it comes
well, as if it would stand ; therefore up a Hand and loose your
fore-topsail in the top, that the ship may see we will sail.'
There is a gleam of sea poetry in this touch, 'that the ship
may see we will sail' In these days of iron the old sentiment
of the ocean is as dead as the rivet that holds together the
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 39
ship's plates ; and the man who attempts to express the beauty
of the full-rigged ship, and the red Atlantic sunset, and the
frothing ridge of the Horn's surge, is laughed at for his pains
by ship-masters and chief mates and second mates. But in
Love's time there still nobly flourished many traditions of the
sea, generated by the enterprise of the older explorers ; and
amongst the notions which were graven on the soul of the
seaman was the belief that a ship had something of human life
in her — that she understood what was ijoinqr forward, that she
had an ear for your speech if you addressed her. Thus, even
down in times so recent as those of Dana, we find the mate
of the ship hurrahing the old bucket as she storms along, slap-
ping his thigh, and talking to her as he might to his wife.
After James Love has lifted his anchor, he puts before the
wind, and things go very well, in an extremely old-fashioned
style, for awhile. The ship then meets with very heavy
weather. I quote the following passage as an example of the
sea language of Queen Anne's time, and also as showing
where Mr. Gulliver found his nautical experience :
* We make Foul Weather, look the Guns be all fast ; come,
hand the Mizzen, the ship lies very broad off; it is better
Spooning before the sea, than trying or hulling; go, reef the
Foresail and set him ; haul aft the Foresheet ; the helm is hard
a Weather, mind at helm what is said to you carefully : the
ship wears bravely, steady, she is before it ; belay the Fore-
downhall ; it is done. The Sail is split, go haul down the
Yards and get the sail into the ship, and unbind all the things
clear of it. Starboard, hard up, right up your helm ; Port,
Port hard ; more hands, he cannot put up the helm ; a very
fierce storm, the sea breaks strange and dangerous ; stand by
to haul off upon the Lanyard of the Whip-staff and help the
man at the helm and mind what is said to you. Shall we get
40 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
down our Top-mast? No, let all stand, she sends before the
sea very well ; the Top-mast being aloft, the Ship is the whole-
somer and malceth better way thro' the sea, seeing we have
sea-room. Thus you see the ship handled in fair weather and
foul, by and large : now let us see how we can turn to Wind-
This is the speech of the sea-spectre; it was once a very
real note, dangerous to those who defied it. in this language
we beat the Dutch, and were gallantly beaten by the Hol-
lander in return ; and in this language we gave chase to the
Frenchman, and towed him home — though it must be ad-
mitted that in those days Johnny frequently succeeded, under
the influence of a liquor called brandy and gunpowder, in
clapping old Mr. Love and his hearts under hatches, and car-
rying them off to miserable captivity.
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 41
IT was long a tradition — it may still linger — that on the
summit of one of the heights of the Azores there stood a
mighty figure in stone of a man on horseback pointing into
the west. It was a hint, however, that nobody seems to have
paid much heed to before the time of Columbus, unless we
are to believe what is related of that extremely apocryphal
Welsh adventurer Madoc, for whom, to the lasting glory of
the little principality, is claimed the discovery of America.
The ships of Columbus are the most interesting vessels that
were ever built, that were ever afloat, that are to be read of in
ancient or modern literature. All the significance of the great
discovery, and the mighty issues of prosperity and spreading
civilisation which we in this age are privileged to behold, are
in them. The life, too, of Columbus is the most affecting
piece of biography in the world ; and his ship, the ship in
which he first made sail, the ship in which we think of him as
standing, austerely silent, bending a falcon gaze over the
bow at the reddening desolate sea of the west — that ship fits
his story as his shadow fitted his figure. There were many
larger ships afloat than the craft in which Columbus made sail.
The o^reat-hearted seaman was g^lad to take the best he could
get. The Andalusian shipowners had resisted a royal decree
that they should provide three vessels ready for sea within ten
days : they viewed the proposed expedition as the scheme of
a lunatic dreamer. Columbus found it very difficult to collect
42 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
crews. It was pre-eminently the age of marine superstitions.
The sailor exorcised the demon of the waterspout by holding
up anything in the shape of a cross and mumbling an Ave.
Bald-headed, jolly-faced old men, with shining black eyes, and
knees terminating in a tail of about the length and size of a
hammer-headed shark's, swam alongside, grinned up at the
astonded mariner, and sank from his sight. Lamps kindled
by the hand of spirits burnt in the rigging at night, and the
superstitious seamen on bended knees listened to the faint
sweet music of heaven, though it might be no more than the
melodies of the shrouds wrought into a celestial choiring by
the mysterious presence of the — corposant.
Those who wish to know how ignorant and superstitious the
seamen of the Middle Ages were, should read the collections of
Hakluyt (this work is fascinating in black letter), of Purchas
(whose pagination runs into thousands), of Churchill (whose
six volumes embody the relations of a number of Jesuits), and
Harris (an indifferent collection). I need refer to no more.
There is plenty to read here.
A model of Columbus's ship was at the World's Fair, and so
all the world has seen her. Whether that reproduction was
in all ways accurate matters little. I have seen a picture of
her, and she certainly looks uncommonly like the ship that
Columbus sailed in.
It is difficult to describe the ship of the Columbian age. The
seamen of her day no doubt had names for her different parts,
but the need of those names went overboard long ago, and
the clumsy appurtenances of the stem and the stern, of the
main deck and the mainmast-head, stare, without power to
render themselves intelligible by expression, from the pictures
of fifteenth-century shipping. There lies before me a print
of somethinor that Columbus might have sailed in. or if not
THE SHIP OF COLUMBUS
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 45
Columbus then Martin Pinzon. Her stern is crowned with a
structure closely resembling a gigantic pigeon-house. How she
was steered, by what extraordinary efforts the sailors succeeded
in trimming their mizzen when the wind shifted, the picture
sayeth not. Her figure is that of a cask sawn in halves length-
wise and raised up at both ends. Such a contrivance might be
safely trusted to blow along before the breeze ; but it is im-
possible to understand how vessels thus built and rigged man-
aged to keep a true course when they braced up their yards.
In the ships of Da Gama we witness a form and type which
seem something distinct, and which are certainly cheering.
That the little squadron was composed of vessels of burden
may be gathered from the royal directions : * The king ordered
the ships to be supplied with double tackle and sets of sails
and artillery and munitions in great abundance; above all,
provisions, with which the ships were to be filled ; ... all sorts
of merchandise of what was in the kingdom, . . . and cloths of
gold, silk, and wool, &c., &/ They reckoned ships* tonnage
in pipes of wine ; and the burden of the * San Gabriel * on this
basis has been calculated at three hundred and fifty tons.
From the summit of Table Mountain on a clear day one
may obtain a view of the distant finger-like point of Agulhas.
To stand upon that commanding height and witness in a vision
the little ships of Diaz and Da Gama struggling round the Cape
of Storms would surely be to dream nobly. From that majestic
altitude, indeed, we might in imagination behold such a pro-
cession as should tell in the space of a dream the whole story of
the ship from the days of Diaz down to this present noon of
eight bells. The clumsy sturdy wagons of the Dutch, the
Portuguese felucca, those heavy lumpers, our early Indiamen,
their stately successors the Indiamen of the first half of this
century, wooden ships and iron ships, then little steamers with
46 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
paddle-wheels, then bigger steamers, and now the giantesses
which make for Australia and New Zealand by way of the
Cape — all would pass ! A procession to keep one's hands
lifted. What an amazinor arowth ! What admirable skill !
How gloriously heroic are those quaint little figures of ships
in the van ! How suggestive of the silent, irresistible forces
of Nature the magnificent steamer that closes the rear !
It is not until we come to the reign of Henry VIH. that we
meet with anything large and important in shipbuilding. Par-
ticulars are extant of a large merchant-ship of 1531. I submit
an extract from her inventory translated into modern English.
She had been surveyed by one Christopher Morris, who thus
delivers himself : * The ship has an orlop deck ; a forecastle
and a close timber deck ; above the forecastle a deck from the
mainmast aft ; a mainmast of spruce scarfed with the same
wood ; a new mainmast yard of spruce of one piece.' Then
Christopher tells us of tackles and shrouds, brass sheaves for
blocks, lifts for the yards and halliards to hoist the sails with,
a new main-top, top-mast and its furniture, and so on. The
sailors found plenty to handle in this ship — things with very
queer names — such as pollys, now called blocks. Yet on the
whole it is the spelling rather than the names which makes the
nomenclature of the sea of those times queer and grotesque.
The terms are like the cries of a giant infant ; we have softened
down and rounded them off, but all the same we have retained
for the most part the giant infant's expressions. They were
good ; we could not sail a ship without them in these days.
The master-rigger would want a language if the inventions of
the giant infant were struck out of the sea-tongue.
The * Great Harry,* according to James, the naval historian,
was built in the third year of the reign of King Henry VH.
(1488) ; and he speaks of her as the first ship of the Royal
THE SHIP: HER STORY.
Navy — that is, as belonging to the nation, though he thinks
there is reason to believe that Richard HI. owned a few of
the ships he employed. The * Great Harry,' was afloat for
sixty-five years, and was at last (says James) accidentally
burnt off Woolwich in 1553. It will presently be seen that
Sir Richard Hawkins says this ship was lost by foundering.
The great ship of the age of King Henry VIII. was the
* Harry Gr^ce a Dieu.' ' She sat like a castle on the water.
Aft she is all poop, and forward she is all forecastle, and in the
well between there seems not to have been much room for the
sailors to run about in. Her rig is delightfully odd. One
thinks whilst looking at her of the ingenious manufactures of
Nuremberg. She had four masts, and something answering to
a mast, but not in the least resembling a bowsprit, projected
from her bows. She had tops shaped like teacups, and in the
print that I examine I seem to see a top-gallant yard lying
square under the flag that blows from the topmast head. She
appears to have been a vessel exceeding a thousand tons burden.
One cannot but wish that it had been in any way possible by
artifical means to petrify the old wagon, so that at this hour she
might be standing up, masts, yards, and all, somewhere within
convenient reach of the crowd. She would be accepted as one
of the greatest wonders of the world. She carried ' a great
plenty of cannons/ all of them strangely named. For example,
she had three *di-cannons/ four * sakers,* two cannon 'pesers.'
She had pieces for the tops and guns for the hand. Other
cannon with alarming names peeped out of her. She was also
handsomely equipped with arrows, pikes, bows, and darts.
They were still a little young in her day as seafarers ; yet here
was a ship with her three hundred and forty-nine soldiers, her
three hundred and one mariners, her fifty gunners, her nineteen
il grow a little addled over these old names, and may possibly mistake one
ship for another.
50 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
brass pieces, and her hundred and three iron guns capable of
proving much more than merely a terror to anything flying the
flag of an enemy within the sea-girdle visible from her lofty
It should be said, however, that, if not so formidable, at
least as big, or even a bigger ship, was built in Scotland nearly
half a century earlier than the * Harry GrAce a Dieu.' The
building of this ship almost denuded Scotland of its timber.
Dr. Samuel Johnson does not appear to have heard of her.
She cost thirty thousand pounds in the money of that time.
James IV. then ruled Scotland, and he appears to have been
very proud of this vessel. Whilst she lay within reach of him
he visited her daily, and he dined and supped in her, and was
never weary of roaming about her with his lords, and showing
them her guns and carrying them to the places where they
kept the powder and shot. Her dimensions are thus stated :
* She was twelve score feet of length, and thirty-six feet by two
in her sides.' Her historian says quaintly : * If any man be-
lieve that this description of the ship is not of verity as we
have written, let him pass to the gate of Tillibarden, and there
before the same he will see the length and breadth of the
•'Great Michael" planted with hawthorne by the wright that
helped to make her.'
The names of the various portions of a ship of the days of
Mar)', and Elizabeth, and James I., will be found in Sir William
Monson's Naval Tracts. Some of the expressions puzzled
James the historian. * The couperidge-head murderers ; they
make close the forecastle and half-deck. Lockers are the holes
the pintle of the murderers goes into.' The * murderer ' was a
small cannon ; it was fitted forward, with elevated muzzle, and
James seems to think that it was intended to sweep the rigging
and tops in case the enemy boarded and gave trouble aloft.
But surely its muzzle could be depressed when occasion arose !
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 51
Be this as it may, in wooden shipbuilding, Monson's terms,
modernised, might pass, with very few exceptions, as currencies
of the yards in any nautical dictionary of to-day. I have a
great liking for the character and writings of this old sea-ofificer
of the days of Elizabeth and James. He helped fight the
Spaniards of the Armada, when a lad, in the ' Charles' pinnace.
He saw a great deal of service, and was associated with many
mighty men — Sir Francis Drake, Sir John Hawkins, and his
S OF THE ARMADA
incomparable son Richard, the Lord Thomas Howard, Fro-
bisher, Fenton, Grenville of the 'Revenge' (whom he spares
not, by the way, for losing his ship), and scores more of the
burning hearts of those ' spacious times.' He wrote in his old
age a little treatise on the building of ships, every word of
which, for the truth, directness, and beauty of the expression
of the whole, I heartily wish I had space to quote here. In
this treatise he deals entirely with ships of war. He tells us
52 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
there are two ways of building ships : * the one with a flush-
deck, fore and aft, sunk and low by water : the other lofty and
high, charged with a half-deck, forecastle and copperidge-heads.'
He chooses the flush-deck ship to fight in ; she is commonly
fast, but she must not allow herself to be boarded. The other
ship provided what the seamen of old clays called * close quar-
ters'; they fired from behind defences, and often cleared the
decks and brought their ships off' after things had looked
desperate. He commends, however, a tall ship for these
qualities ; first, for the majesty and terror that she is to her
enemies ; next, she provides room for her men ; she is able to
carry more and heavier artillery than a low, flush-decked ship ;
then she will overtop a deeper and snug ship ; and finally her
men cannot be very easily seen owing to the waistcloths.
All this seems pretty obvious, and yet it remains the puzzle
of to-day. Are we to oppose the enemy with the majesty and
terror of giant ironclads, every one of which, if she sinks,
whether by the torpedo, the shot, or the thrust of a friendly
ram, carries with her the value — running hard into a million —
of a whole squadron of ships of Nelson's time? or shall the
navy of Great Britain be composed of vessels of comparatively
small displacement, armed not less formidably than the huge
ironclad, but capable of doing infinitely more execution by
virtue of their speed and comfortable behaviour in tumbling
waters? Thus the same problem is handed on from genera-
tion to generation. It was the galley in Monson's time ; it is
the torpedo-boat in this. Happily we move a little faster than
did, or rather could, those old hearts of oak ; and how fast,
and with what judgment, let all interested in such things — I
fear in this maritime country they are not too numerous — read
with attention in the admirable History of the Royal Navy
written by Commander Robinson, R. N.
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 53
In spite ot bulbous runs and bows built on the hint of the
apple, ships in ihtt days of Monson do not appear to have
possessed the Scability you would expect to find in them. It
is quite true that they overloaded, just as we do, without our
excuse : we know all about the metacentre and another centre
of stability ; we know all about heights of side ; and we have the
load disc,' which is grimly accepted as a warranty of seaworthi-
ness : thus we send our ships away to sea to shift their cargoes
and to drown themselves and their men, and it is all good
because it is all scientific. Of yore they were not scientific ;
but there was so much ambition of safety in shipbuilding, ac-
cording to the raw fancies of those primitive yards, that it is
surprising they did not make better provision, whether by bilge
keels or by greater depth of moulding, against oversetting.
There was also much loss of life and ships through neglect in
attending to the lower ports, but often through the ship being
weighted by her freight of guns and commodities down to a
point that brought her lower ports almost flush with the water.
Sir Richard Hawkins, who made a memorable voyage into the
South Sea in the year 1593, nearly lost his ship from this cause.
She was about three.hundred and fifty tons, and appears, from
what Sir Richard tells us, to have been a delightful ship to look
at. Queen Elizabeth, indeed, when the * Repentance '(as she
was first called) was at anchor off Deptford, happening to pass in
her barge on her way to her palace at Greenwich, was so struck
with the vessel that she ordered her people to row round her ;
and the Queen could find nothing to dislike but the name of
the vessel, which she commanded Sir Richard to change into
the 'Daintie.' Yet this same ' Daintie' was nearly lost in the
Thames, whilst starting on her first voyage,through overloading.
^ The Board of Trade have unconstitutionally done away with the Plimsoll
mark. A graver question is the underload-line (1899).
54 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
One thinks of the tragedy of the ' Eurydice' on reading Sir
Richard's remarks, quaint in their old English dress. ' I began,'
my servani in riyiiioiiiii lo
_ , put in readiness my pinnace;
'^ as also to take up certain pro-
SPANISH OALLEOK-, SILVE. FLEET ^-^-^^^ ... The eight of April,
1593. I caused the pilot to set sail from Blackwall. and to vaile
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 55
down * (that is, to sail down under lowered topsails) ' to
Gravesend, whither that night I purposed to come. And for
that she was very deep loden ; and, her ports open, the water
began to enter in at them ; which nobody having regard unto,
thinking themselves safe in the river, it augmented in such
manner as the weight of the water began to press down the
side more than the wind : at length, when it was seen and the
sheets flown, she could hardly be brought upright. But God
was pleased that with a diligence and travail of the company
she was fteed of that danger ; which may be a gentle warning
to all such as take charge of shipping, even before they set
sail either in river or harbour, to have an eye to their ports.*
The * Great Harry,' he tells us, went down through this
omission to close the ports, just as two centuries afterwards the
' Royal George ' foundered from the same neglect. Plenty of
beam was no guarantee of stability against overloading or the
shifting of cargoes. Yet ships were so low-masted, carried
canvas so disproportioned to their bulk, showed such prodigious
freeboards, and ran from stem to stern in such inconceivable
' springs,' that, providing the mariners paid attention to the
holes in their crafts' sides, one should think it impossible that
they could founder, even in a hurricane, any more than a
On page 54 is an example of two ships of a later date than
the * Daintie.' You would say that with their ports carefully
seen to they could wash about the ocean until with grass and
weeds they ceased to look as though built by human hands.
The story of the ship involves her internal government, and
one wants to know what sort of discipline was to be found on
board those old vessels, some few of which were occasionally
going down on account of their portholes being left open.
56 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
Some answer to this may be found in the instructions given by
the Earl of Lindsay in 1635 to his captains. The keynote is
struck with the devotional spirit of the age : the chief in
command is to take care that all the officers and companies of
the ships worship God twice a day. Swearing, drunkenness,
robbery, sleeping on watch, and the like, were to be punished
according to the order and custom of the sea. Punishments
were brutally severe in those times. They marooned : that is
they set a man ashore alone on a desolate coast or island, and
left him to starve, to be destroyed by savages or wild beasts.
They keel-hauled : that is, they dragged a man naked by yard-
arm whips under the bottom of a ship, and drew him up raw
and bloody with the harsh wounding of barnacles and spike-like
adherences, only to be submerged afresh ere the unhappy
miscreant could fetch a full breath. They nailed a man to the
mainmast by driving a knife through his hand. For murder,
that was often manslaughter, they tied the living to the dead
back to back, and threw them overboard.
But to return to the discipline of the old ship. They were
to be very careful of fire ; in case cannon-balls went through the
sides, men were to stand by in readiness with salted hides,
sheets of lead, and other sorts of plugs. They provided for
thick weather by beating drums, blowing trumpets, ringing
bells, shooting off muskets. This is the discipline of the man-
of-war ; I suspect it was not to be found in the merchantman.
My lord speaks of a noise of trumpets. Ships in those days
carried trumpeters as a part of the crew, and they were used as
a sort of 'beefeater,' for ornament; yet their services were in
frequent demand, and wonderful stories are told of the old
trumpeter who, despite overwhelming odds, would maintain
the spirits of the crew of his galley, whose bottom was a
shambles, by blowing until he fell dead, trumpet at lip. His
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 59
trumpet was sometimes of silver adorned with banners of silk
of the Admiral's colours. He was a kind of ship's footman,
and showed people in and out.
Progress in shipbuilding in Great Britain in the seventeenth
century was not a little due to the spirit of the Dutch, who,
while England was fighting for her liberty at home, had become
a free republic and the masters of the seas. The ocean swarmed
with their merchantmen. The English East India Company,
then in its infancy, was obstructed and outraged by the Dutch
and the Portuguese in Eastern seas. Particulars are given by
Lindsay of the difficulties the English encountered. Of eighty-
six ships which the East India Company had despatched, eleven
were seized by the Dutch, nine were lost, five were worn out
by long service, and only thirty-six had arrived with cargoes,
the remaining twenty-five being then in India. These figures
are quoted from a return presented to Parliament in 162 1.
The supremacy of the Dutch in trade was undoubtedly owing
to the superiority of their ships. They never could lack plenty
of seamen to man their vessels, thanks to their fisheries. The
Dutch sailors in fearlessness and seamanship were equal to the
English. Some of the Dutch East Indiamen of those times
were splendid ships, as ships then went — out and away superior
to anything that we had afloat for commercial purposes. One
admires them in old paintings. Their sterns were scarcely less
sumptuously decorated than those of such three-deckers of
modern times as E. VV. Cooke delighted to draw, and drew
inimitably well. They preserved the old lines — the towering
poop, the peculiar droop of the bow ; but in point of scantling,
in equipment, decoration, discipline, number of crew, they were
noble examples of the shipwright's skill, and honourable to the
wonderful struggles and amazing progress of the most remark-
able and interesting of the nationalities of Europe.
6o THE SHIP: HER STORY.
We owe the Navigation Laws,* amongst other causes, to
Dutch predominance at sea. Those laws concern us here only
to the extent of the spirit they appear to have infused into
British shipping. It would appear that between 1666 and 1688
the merchant shipping of this country had doubled, whilst the
Royal Navy had increased in tonnage from nearly sixty-three
thousand to over a hundred and one thousand. From the
angry discussions raised by the passing of these Acts we get
some facts of interest. We find that there were plenty of
people who were swearing that if the trade of the country was
not protected by heavy customs duties, amounting, according
to some suggestions, to 50 percent., the Danes, Swedes, Dutch^
and others would ruin the nation, because of the difference of
the cost in the building of the requisite ships for commercial
purposes. An example is given of that long defunct craft, the
flyboat. In Scandinavian countries the cost of building such a
vessel of three hundred tons was about 1,300/. ; in England she
could not have been constructed for less than 2,4000/. It was
declared that the average cost of an English ship was 8/. a ton.
and that of a vessel built in a Scandinavian yard 4/. But^
Dutchmen or no Dutchmen, we went on building briskly and
doubling our output, and in the middle of the seventeenth
century, or somewhat later, England had some stately ships of
war afloat, of one of which the artist has given us an example.
Here we have a picture of that sort of ship on which Blake
curled his whiskers and which gave much trouble to the Dutch.
She is an odd, ungainly figure, owing to her bulky stem and
long beak ; but the practised eye of the sailor climbing her
heights will note with satisfaction that she is loftily clothed to
her trucks just as ships now go. And yet, much as we may
admire this ship, we do not observe the great change we should
* I do not refer to the earlier Navigation Laws.
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 63
expect to find in the shape since so long before as the day of
the * Harry Grlce k Dieu/ She is a tall ship, and for her time
no doubt she is a great ship ; but she still remains that type of
vessel to whose dulness in sailing, slowness in wearing, failure
in tacking, must be humanly ascribed much of that very strong
speech which is still to be heard under both flags. Figure
such a craft running before a heavy Cape Horn sea : at every
lunge she sinks herunneccessary beak, and it is all Whitewater
to abaft the gangways. Figure her close-hauled, * looking up '
for something very much like herself on the weather bow.
She will lie within seven points of the wind ; but what leeway
are we to allow her ? in what direction does the wake stream
ofif when you look over the weather quarter ?
These ships of war, however — Dutch, English, and French
being pretty well all alike — pummelled one another on an
honourable footinof: no advantacfe could be taken ; the wind
that gave the Englishman five points of leeway was also driving
the Dutchman to leeward like a balloon. If one manoeuvred
sluggishly, the other's motions were equally dull. Well would
it be for the British if they could continue to fight at sea
on the same terms and under the same conditions as their fore-
fathers fought ! I should like to see the boarding-pike in Jack's
hand again. Who is the * naval expert ' who declares that
there is no instance on record of a line-of-battle ship having been
taken by boarding ? Whoever is responsible for this rash state-^
ment must be grossly ignorant of the life of Lord Nelson, and
of the capture by that heroic little captain of two-line-of-battle
ships dy boarding in the famous fight off Cape St. Vincent.
64 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
THE average life of a wooden ship was said to be fifteen
years. This probably was assumed as a basis for in-
surance purposes, yet a large percentage of wooden ships
flourished much longer than fifteen years. I could quote
many instances of wooden ships which kept afloat an incredi-
ble number of years. And eighty out of every hundred were
coasters. Mostly coasters were called sea-coffins after Mr.
PlimsoU started up in the House of Commons, and theatrically
and effectively denounced the shipowner as the rapacious de-
stroyer of his species ; so the quaint old sieves went in their
dozens to the marine knacker s yard, and a hundred objects of
interest to a nautical or a painters eye disappeared for ever
from our home waters.
Two extraordinary instances of longevity in ships maybe
worth quoting here. In February 1827 the 'Betsy Cains,' of
Shields, sailed from that port with a cargo to Hamburg. She
met wMth a heavy gale from E.S.E., and bore up for Shields
harbour. The sea was raging on Tynemouth bar ; the ship
struck, was driven upon the rocks and lost. What ship was
this that was lost in the year 1827 ? Will it be believed that
she was the yacht that in 1688 brought over to England
William, Prince of Orange, and that she was then called the
•* Princess Mary ' ? This, at all events, was claimed for her.
How old was she when she carried the Prince? For a num-
ber of years afterwards she was one of Queen Anne's royal
yachts, and was reckoned a very fast sailing vessel.
THE SHIP; HER STORY. 65
The other instance is that of a vessel called the 'Cognac
Packet,' which, as she was afloat in 1886, may still be trading
and in good health. I took a note of her in that year, when
she sailed from Seaham harbour coal-laden for Harwich, in
HUDSON S HALF-MOON
command of Captain Button, and she was then ninety-four
years old, having been built at Burlesdon, Hants, in 1792,
She used to carry brandy to France, and so they named her
as above. She was almost a box in shape.
66 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
The old ship that went to pieces off Shields, and that Queen
Anne used as a yacht, finds a certain similitude in our artist's
sketch of Henry Hudson's * Half-moon ' — a yacht (as she was
termed) of eighty tons, manned by fourteen or sixteen people.
In such small fabrics did the brave hearts of old sail forth to
dare the terrors of the Frozen North, or to search for new
lands beyond seas then measureless to man. In far later times
the heroic Cook set out on his voyage of discovery in ships
not greatly superior in bulk, build, or equipment to the
* Betsy Cains.' The ' Discovery,' one of Cook's ships, was
sketched by E. W. Cooke, R.A., as she lay on the mud with
a flight of prison Hnen blowing from a single mast. She is a
convict hulk, but her lines are perfectly clear, despite many
structural alterations, and it is noticeable that in this ship,
which serves as a type, no progress in form is discernible.
She is as much a tub as any Dutchman of the seventeenth
century. The swell of her sides so overlaps her run that she
appears to have shown nothing aft under her counter but what
the the shipwright would call dead-wood.
In fact — though I suppose I shall not have the shipbuilders
with me — we had to wait for the Americans to build to appre-
ciate the meaninir of fine lines and keen entries. We were
a long while in learning, and it was not until our pockets
were threatened that we took the hint. Yet so long ago as
1769, the Americans (we then called them 'the Colonials')
built and launched 113 square-rigged craft and 276 sloops and
schooners. The black slaver was afloat, British speculators
greedily engaged in this trade, and an example of British
humanity may be found in the following dimensions of an
English slave-ship hailing either from Liverpool or Bristol.
She was 100 ft. long, her breadth was 25 ft. 4 in., height be-
tween decks 5 ft. 8 in. She is described as frigate-built, with-
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 67
out forecastle, and pierced for twenty guns. In addition to
her crew she is said, on one occasion, to have carried in slaves
35t men, 121 women, go boys, and 41 girls, a total of 603
68 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
negroes ! This would be considered a considerable com-
pany of souls for an Inman or a Cunard steamer, and here
were all these people packed on board a vessel one hundred
In course of years, when the slaver was hunted down as the
pirate was, the need of speed produced a form of hull that, if
we may credit old seamen, came as near to perfection as the
art of the shipwright can reach to. All readers of ' Tom
Cringle's Log * and * The Cruise of the Midge ' must remember
Michael Scott's enthusiastic and delightful description of the
slaver of his day : the low, long, black piratic hull sheathed
with gleaming copper to the bends, schooner-rigged, and lifting
enormous heights of canvas for a vessel of her size. But then
there was the Middle Passage to be made and the cruisers to
outrun : fifty days from the Gold Coast to the West Indies
was considered an average passage. The run was sometimes
made in forty-two days, and this was considered good. The
vessels floated into roasting calms. Think of the misery of
the slaves confined in the hold — babies, mothers, men, boys,
and women — dying amid filth, in an atmosphere horrible to
smell, in which a flame might hardly burn. As the wretches
died they were flung overboard.
* We'll have the niggers up, my boys,
And fling them in the sea ! '
runs the old song ; and it is a fact, but one of the blackest of
the facts of that hellish trade, that when slavers were chased by
men-of-war, negroes were hurled into the water, not with the
intention of lightening the vessel, but that the spectacle of the
drowning wretches should appeal to the humanity of the pur-
suer and compel him to stop chasing to lower his boats.
Whilst Canada was under the dominion of the French, a
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 69
sixty-gun ship had been constructed of the red pine of that
country. This was perhaps in the recollection of our Govern-
ment, which, when Canada became a British dependency, recog-
nised the expediency of encouraging emigration with a view to
the cultivation of hemp and timber. ' The timber trade alone,'
says Lindsay, ' sufficed to tempt many enteqirising Englishmen
to strain every effort to open out the vast regions comprised
under the names of Upper and Lower Canada.' But it is to
Boston and Salem, or rather to the State of Massachusetts,
that we must look in the last century for developement of form,
proportion, and general beauty in ships. The Americans are no
longer a ship-making people.' How their shipwrights would
manage in the expression of finer types than we ourselves have
developed in this age of iron can only be conjectured ; it is
' I modify this statement in 1899.
70 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
certain that we owe them many suggestions. Indeed, for the
matter of that, we have ever been a hint-borrowing race — when
the hint has been washed to our doors. ' We fetched the first
model and pattern of our friggots from the Dunkirks,' says old
Fuller ; and Pepys informs us that Pett * took his model of a
frigate from a French ship which he had seen in the Thames.'
James, who is the best authority on all matters connected
with the Royal Navy of the days of Howe and Nelson, in a
preliminary treatise refers to British appropriation of foreign
ideas in shipbuilding. He admits that in the form of the
lower body of their ships the French greatly surpassed the
English ; but he contends that, in point of materials and work-
manship, the advantage was, and down to James's day still was
with the latter. He owns, however, that in 1750, and for long
years afterwards, many complaints were to be heard in the
Navy against the inadequacy of the scantling of ships for their
freight of artillery. ' Our ships are born too weak,* the sailors
used to say. As to the inferiority of the materials used by the
French — have I dreamt, or is it a fact, that some of the very
finest vessels in our Navy were prizes captured from the
squadrons of France, and that it was by their models we
improved our own ships ?
Indeed, as an example of the quality of the structures our
builders of the last century were turning out for the hearties of
the pigtail to risk their lives in, take this statement of William
Hutchinson, a mariner, who was a dock master at Liverpool,
and wrote a book on practical seamanship, the fourth edition of
which, printed in 1794, Hes before me. * About the year 1755/
he says, ' I went to Chatham, where I observed the *' Royal
Sovereign," a first-rate ship-of-war, in the repairing dock, laid
upon blocks that formed a convex curve, about two feet higher
under her main frame than at each end of her keel, in order to
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 71
suit her concave hogged bottom, which I reckon was owing to
being built by the long, straight floor, which great defect by
all possible means ought to be avoided, by building ships with
convex elliptical curved bottoms in their length downward.'
A ship is said to be ' hogged 'wlien she has so strained the
middle of her hull that the stern and bow droop. The hog's
72 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
back seems obviously to have suggested the expression. Old
Mr. Hutchinson brings another charge, which had not prob-
ably met the eye of the late Mr. James. He says : * An in-
telligent Chatham gentleman, who had been thirty years master
of our ships-of-war coming to Liverpool, called upon me. I
showed him the above paragraph relating to the ** Royal
Sovereign." He immediately observed that this was account-
ing for the report of a crashing noise that was heard when our
large ships-of-war were put upon straight blocks, which must
naturally be owing to their being hogged, which I reckon
begins from the time of their being launched.' Some years
later, Collingwood was unconsciously justifying this statement,
by complaining of many of the ships under his command be-
having as though they were hogged. Of all sea-leaders
Collingwood deserved to get the best ships. It was he who
filled his pockets with acorns when he was at home, and
dropped them as he walked about, trusting that they would
spring intooaks proper to build ships to beat the French with,
long, very long, after he should have become a portion of the
soil they drew their life from.
It seems difficult to find any improvement of a marked form
between the ships of the Charleses and the ships of George III.,
down to the close of the last century. I do not refer particu-
larly to vessels of the State, nor to the internal fittings and
strong fastenings of ships. The merchantmen remained mere
butter-boxes, many of them gaudy indeed with colour and gilt,
but slow in sailing and heavy to handle. They were over-
bowed. Then, again, their * buttocks/ as the old shipwrights
very properly called the * rm/ carried a mass of dead water
with them. It was like having a ship in tow, and they were
steered with difficulty. The shipwright tried his hand at what
was called full bows and clean tails — to no purpose. These
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 73
ships, instead of dragging the water after them, heaped it up
before them, and stopped themselves ; and even in moderate
weather the wheel was going up and down as though the
vessel was amongst ice. When running, they easily broached
to, and if they did not broach to, they were pooped.
Again I must refer to the rolling of those old ships owing to
their proportions; and what their proportions were we may
gather from a writer who speaks with a note of alarm * of a very
extraordinary sharp, slight ship * that was only twenty-seven
feet beam to eighty feet keel ! What would the old builders
have thought of an iron ship — I will not say of an iron
steamer — of to-day ? It is not long since that at Gravesend I
watched a large four-masted sailing ship moored to a buoy
swinging with the tide. As she swung stern on, bringing her
masts into one, I could scarcely credit my sight. As much of
her as was above water was wall-sided. She sat like a long,
very narrow straight plank, supporting a grove or wood of spars
and yards. Certainly she promised no very great width of
pinion. Yet such a vessel as this, ill-stowed, under-manned,
without an inch of swell of side to help her when depressed to
port or starboard, does yet manage somehow to wash about the
ocean ; and though no doubt many of them founder, a large
percentage make their appearance with more or less punctuality,
probably to the secret annoyance of the well-insured owners.
Such an iron ship as I have described will not roll ; she lists
if her cargo shifts, and then as a rule, if her men cannot trim
her, she sinks. Now, the old ships rolled ; they brought every-
thing aloft into the wind*s eye : though hove to, they swept
their spars almost as far to windward as they inclined them to
leeward. The cry of * Stand from under ! ' was constant ;
down would come the main-yard upon the deck, the jeers or
tackles with which in olden times they hoisted the courses hav-
74 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
ing parted ; crash would follow a topmast ; away would go the
jibbooms, and with them the fore-topgallant mast. By and by
nothing might be left but a hull, with perhaps the niizzenmast
A happy mean was wanted — something between crankness
nd stiffness : it was long in coming. It is strange that those
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 75
old builders should have refused so long and so sullenly to
make any effort to solve the problem of length, beam, and
depth. They grasped the hint when the model was a prize
or a wreck arrived on these shores ; but it does not seem that
the commercial shipbuilder ever took the trouble to roam
abroad for ideas, or surely a revolution in structure would
have happened long before the date of the launch and flight
of the first of the superb China clippers.
The Maltese were building finely lined craft ; the builders
might have gone to Venetian waters for ideas ; the yards of
old Spain and of the Mediterranean seaboard should have
proved fruitful in hints. But the spirit of roast beef was too
strong : the builder's father had built just like that before him,,
and what they called improvement was his abomination. So
tall fabrics, so broad that at a distance you knew not whether
they were beam on or end on, continued to tumble about the
ocean. No doubt what Charles Dickens would have derisively
called 'tonnage' weighed as an oppressive influence upon the
builder. A ship's capacity was formerly got at by calculating
her tonnage for measurement by half the breadth for the
depth instead of the whole depth. This was the requirement
of the owner : he demanded disproportion in order to gain
more stowage-room and accommodation for passengers and
crew. In vessels thus put together a captain made nothing of
sailinir with his lee windlass-end under water.
A ship was built, much about the year 1780, which was said
to have satisfied everybody all round. I submit her dimen-
sions for the information of those curious in such matters.
She was 360 tons by what was called carpenter's measurement ;
her extreme length of keel from forefoot to keel at the after-
part of the sternpost was ninety feet ; her extreme breadth at
the main frame was thirty feet ; her depth from the ceiling to
76 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
the main deck was six-tentlis of the extreme breadth, and the
rake of the stem was formed so as to admit the wood-ends of
the entrance and bows to make the same curve as the water-
line from the stem at the harping towards the main frame ;
whilst the bows flaired out with the rake of the stem till they
were formed by the sweep of a circle of half the main breadth
amidships. The wright who built her describes her with
solemn satisfaction ; everybody was delighted. She was
■called the ' Hall'; yet no smack ever launched anything
through her gangway more tub-like and unlovely in the shape
of a deck-boat than this same ' Hall.'
It may interest the reader, perhaps, if I refer briefly to the
sails which ships were carrying in the last century, at about
the period, let us call it, when the ' Hall ' was washing away
to leeward on a bowline with her well-pleased builder at the
hardover tiller — say, 1760 to 1800.
I am looking upon a plate of a ship under all sail, and I
nt in all thirty-one, without studding sails. This ship.
VENETIAN GONDOLA, UNDER SAIL
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 79
belonging to the year 1 794, carries under her jibboom and bow-
sprit a spritsail and spritsail-topsail ; she has royals ; she has
an extraordinary tall hoist of topsails, which laughably shrinks
her topgallant-sails ; she has three jibs, and a fore-topmast
staysail. In addition to the sails still in use, she carries a
water-sail, hauled out to a tail-block made fast to the driver
(or spanker) boom-end. At the extremity of the spanker-gaff
they hoisted a great lug-shaped sail. Saving these and the
spritsails, I witness no other changes than these : first, that
the royals of the old ship (then called the topgallant-royals)
were mast-headed by sheaves in the trucks ; next, the stay on
which her mizzen-royal staysail is hoisted appears to be set up
midway the main-topmast — which I confess I do not under-
stand, since it would be impossible for the main-topsail yard
to come down on the cap with that stay direct in the road of
the parrel. Otherwise the changes are exceedingly few. We
now halve our sails, and call them double topsails and top-
gallant-sails, with great disadvantage to the speed of the ship,
one should say, for by this splitting or halving process much
of the power of the wind is lost. The studding-sail also, I
believe, is practically out of date. Yet I venture to say there
is no living sailor who, if he could go on board that old ship,
would not find the complicated machinery, aloft and alow
almost as familiar to his hand as the gear of anything in iron
now sailing out of dock. I observe that the crossjack yard,
which formerly in old ships made a lateen-sail of the spanker,
closely resembling the sails of the Barbary felucca the artist
has drawn, is square by lift and brace in this old ship.
It is worth noticing here, however, that, if the mariner of the
last century had progressed in sail-making, though not in naval
architecture, he was still very poorly equipped by science as a
navigator. Down to the times of Maskelyne and the Board of
8o THE SHIP: HER STORY.
Longtitude, the seaman relied on dead reckoning for his longi
tude. Splendid were the efforts made to solve the problem.
Irwin invented a marine-chair to observe Jupiter's moons at
sea ; Harrison furnished his famous time-piece, which made
the voyage of trial to the West Indies. A board of Longti-
tude was established, and Mayers Tables and Maskelyne's
Nautical Almanac were issued.
The Nautical Almangic was viewed for loner with alarm and
distrust by the old race of seamen ; they feared that their dis-
covering the longitude by it would require such nice observa-
tions and such long calculations as must result in the most
dangerous errors ; so they went on heaving the log. ' The
Board of Longtitude,' wrote an old sea-captain, * in order to
facilitate the discovery that is expected to be made by this
last mentioned method ' (/. e. the Nautical Almanac), * has or-
dered that the masters for the Royal Navy must qualify them-
selves by learning to pass an examination to show that they
understand the Nautical Almanac, which is a task, in my
opinion, that cannot be expected from many of our most hardy
and expert navigators, whose education has been mostly, from
early youth, through the hard, laborious, and busy scenes of
life at sea, and who have never had the opportunity to get the
learning that is necessary to understand the true principles
of the Almanac'
There never yet was a good thing introduced into the sea
life but that old sailors with faces of fire objected and protested.
The double topsail yard, for instance, was the invention of an
American. In one of the old ' Nautical Magazines ' there is a
sketch of a United States auxiliary frigate rigged with double
topsails — the first ship (I believe) that adopted them. Though,
as I have elsewhere said, the double topsail cannot possibly
hold as much wind, and therefore do as much work, as the old-
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 8i
fashioned single topsail, yet a no more serviceable Idea ever
entered the human head. In an instant, by letting go your
upper topsail halliards, your ship is under close-reefed sail. In
my time it took the whole strength of a watch to reef a top-
sail in anything like a fresh breeze. The halliards were let go,
the sail blew up in huge bladders iron-hard, the reef tackles
were roused out ; then began a job that would often run the
watch into the best of an hour, what with waiting for the
weather earing to be passed and then ' hauling out ' to leeward,
with the ship perhaps almost on her beam ends, and the sight
blind with the flash of rain squalls. This is ended. But what
did the old Jacks say when the double sail was introduced?
'Oh, yes,' they growled, 'we understand all about them nov-
elties. They're meant for the benefit of us pore sailor-men, of
course. Why, durn them double yards ! ain't they going to give
the owners an excuse to cut down the nuniber of the crew?
82 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
They'll profess that half the usual number of a ship's comple-
ment will be enough to sail a ship that has them double yards.'
They objected to wire rigging. It was without elasticity, they
said ; it imperilled the mast ; shrouds of metal could not be
cut away like the laniards of other days. There is no bigot
like a sea-bigot, and amongst the reasons why the progress of
naval architecture was slow down to the age of steam you may
include the prejudice and ignorance of the sailor.
The real miracle of the ship of all times must He surely in
her navigation. One implement of the old-fashioned mariner,
nevertheless, remains — I mean the reel-log. This is a reel with
a quantity of line wound round it ; lengths are measured off,
and marked by knots. The sand-glass is turned when the
piece of wood at the end of the line is thrown over, and the
'stray line' paid out, and when the sand is run out the line is
arrested, and the knot the nearest to the hand shows the speed
of the ship.
This simple method of measuring speed is probably as
ancient as the art of navigation itself. Yet, though this old
log has been supplemented, it has never been replaced. It is
still as regularly * hove ' now as in olden times, when they
were finding out their longitude by it.i
But how much better off, I wonder, is the sailor of these
times than was the mariner a hundred and fifty years ago ?
The other day a gentleman put into my hand a telescope which
he said had belonged to Nelson. The owner (a retired naval
officer had particular good reason for knowing that the glass
had been Nelson's. It was a long, awkward tube, and when I
put it to my eye methought I saw more, and certainly clearer,
with the naked sight. It is an engine — it is as big as a
^ It ought to be regularly hove by every deep-water ship. If I commanded
a ship I would not place my whole dead-reckoning trust in Massey's or
THE SHIP; HER STORY. 83
blunderbuss — which fairJy illustrates the machinery at the dis-
posal of the old navigator. His fore-staff was a very rude
contrivance, and the quadrant that science (after keeping him
waiting for it for years) at last put into his hands might provoke
the mirth of the most serious for its primitive plainness and
lumbersomeness. What has the navigator now which the
commander of the ship of old had not ? His sextant is a per-
fect and beautiful instrument, his chronometer is a timepiece of
exquisite accuracy. Thanks to the admirable genius of Lord
Kelvin, he possesses a compass which Is the best of all com-
passes to steer by. To Lord Kelvin, too, lie owes a sounding
machine, by which he can tell the depth of water his ship is in,
though she should be steaming as fast as a gale of wind. He
has an instrument for indicating the number of degrees his
ship rolls to, how lier cargo is trimmed, what her list is, whether
she is down by the head or stern. With the modern captain's
telescope Nelson could Iiave determined many faces, and even
the expressions of them, on board the vessels of the Combined
Fleets, when his own perspective glass gave him nothing but
84 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
a line of ships nodding small upon the horizon. The mariner
should not easily miss his road in these days. He has no excuse
to run into islands, or to produce a reckoning which, if it were
right, should place his ship forty miles up-country in Africa.
Yet somehow or other, though the old seaman went to sea
most shabbily furnished, he managed to grope his way about
the world with little loss except of time. It is his spirit that
makes a wonder of his little ship. As she floats up the
Thames, trailing with her the weeds and grass of distant seas,
we salute the sturdy figure that stands upon the lofty poop.
He may be a very obstinate old fellow, mutineering against
every suggestion calculated to facilitate his dangerous labours,
but he has carried the flag that flies over his head round the
world by methods so crude and primitive that we are moved
to astonishment and admiration as we survey him in fancy.
The ship reflects his splendid spirit, and by its informing
essence, clumsy old wagon as she may be, she is made beauti-
ful to the eye of imagination.
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 85
7"^ HERE was never a finer ship afloat than the East India-
man, from say 1800 down to the last of them, such as the
* Earl of Balcarres/ Cooke sketched the ' Thames,' one of the
handsomest, circa 1820. She has the lordly look of a man-of-
war as she floats off from the wind on the slant of a sea ; she
wants nothing but a pennant. Those old East Indiamen were
exceedingly comfortable ships — liberally found and handsomely
furnished. It is a question whether passengers grew more
weary of the ocean after four months' salt water to Bombay and
Calcutta, than do travellers in these times after six days of the
Alantic, or a little more than a month to New Zealand. We
^ften pull out our watches as we rush along in a railway train ;
in the old stageing days they were content to note the hour by
a leisurely glance at the clock of the inn where they baited.
People of old, when they went to sea in an Indianman, knew
what they had to expect. They danced, flirted, sang, talked
scandal, quarrelled and made it up, and often the young people
got engaged to be married. All the after-part of the ship was
a villageful of people more or less good-humoured. Many are
still alive — they are no longer young — who remember that old-
fashioned voyage round the Cape to the East : the old cuddy,
the griffin, the ayah, the eternal brigadier with his majestic
whiskers. She was by no means lost to sight when John
Company hauled down his flag. The East and West India
Docks grew full of her, at least of ships wljich, in regard to
86 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
burthen, stateliness of appearance, sumptiiousness of cabin
fittings, were well worthy to be the Indiaman's successors. No
finer set of ships in the days of wood ever sailed out of the
Thames than some, indeed most, of the vessels of the fleets
which flew the house-flags of Green, Dunbar, Wigram and
The repeal of the Navigation Laws curiously and un-
expectedly stimulated tile shipbuilding industry. Their repeal
excited great consternation at first. Many owners resolved to
sell their ships ; others to register under foreign flags. Tlie
date of the repeal was 1849. Tliese laws had been in force for
nearly two centuries. They had been designed to arrest the
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 87
maritime progress of Holland ; they had rendered the appren-
ticeship system compulsory ; they provided for a nursery of sea-
men, whether shipowners liked it or not, such as we should find
it impossible, without the re-enactment of these laws rigorously
enforced, to establish in this age, when the foreigner, or
* Dutchman,' israpidly taking the place of the English seaman/
Immediately on the repeal the United States went to work
to secure for their shipowners the trade Great Britain had
thrown open to them. It is true that some years earlier than
the date of the repeal of the Navigation Laws there had been
competition (but of no severe sort) between British and
American owners in the China trade. In 1845, clipper ships
of a novel and beautiful form, outsailing ours by two feet to
one, were despatched from New York and Boston to Wampoa.
They were low in hull, had great beam, their lines were
exquisitely fine, their yards were extraordinarily square, and
any one of them showed as much canvas to the breeze as a line-
of-battle ship. We opposed them with a single clipper-
schooner as a * test.' She was named the * Torrini^ton,* and
she was built by Hall of Aberdeen. She was watched, and
on her proving a commercial success a few others of larger
tonnage were launched.
And still the Americans went on building larger and faster
ships. Gold had been discovered in California, and this
communicated a wonderful impulse to shipbuilding in the
States. American ships sailed from California to China and
loaded produce direct from London to New York, and they
received as much as 10/. per ton freight. The British ship, on
the other hand, was not earning half this money. It looked at
* I desire, without egotism, to place on record the University of Durham's
and my own efforts in that patriotic journal, * The Mornini^ Post,' on behalf of
* Mercantile Jack/ which resulted in a petition three-quarters of a mile long to
the House of Commons. (1899.)
88 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
one time — and that was in 1850 — as though the commercial
flag of the United Stales were destined to drive the red flag of
our country off the seas. How tilings would have gone with
us but for the transmutation of the ship into a metal the soil of
our country was full of, is a question it is now idle to ask.
But assuredly the repeal of the Navigation Laws, supple*
mented by the amazing and brilliant activity of the Americans,
started the British owner out of his mood of bilious apathy.
There was no good, he considered, in coiuinuing to view
things with a gloomy eye. So first of all that well-known
firm, Messrs. Jardine, Matheson & Co., commissioned Hall of
Aberdeen to build a clipper ship for them. She was named
the 'Stornoway,' and was the mother of the beautiful fleet of
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 89
Aberdeen clippers. Others soon followed. In a famous race
in 1856 the *Lord of the Isles,' built at Greenock, beat two of
the fastest Americans. They were nearly double her size ; but
she was the first, nevertheless, in the delivery of the season's
teas from Foo-Choo-Foo.
From this it will be orathered that the Americans were our
very good friends in suggesting, by their commercial antago-
nism, such perfect fabrics as those of the Aberdeen clippers.
I knew them well when a lad at sea. I was in a fast ship from
Australia; yet one — I think she was the * Wooloomooloo ' — in
a fresh breeze overhauled us hand over hand. She broke the
brine into smoke ; her green side swept shark-like over the
surge ,• she would lean to her wash-streak in the trough with the
weight of the wind in her lofty, superbly-fitting sails ; and sh^
showed a forecastle and waist flashing with wet. She went
past us like steam, though our own wake was a white road to
the horizon, and she made me a memory I shall never forget.
It is half a century ago since a great transformation scene
in the wonderful drama of the ship was enacted, for in that
year a voluminous Merchant Shipping Act was passed, a
ponderous Act of 548 clauses. I cannot stop to talk of this
Act beyond saying that it had a direct influence on the building
of the ship. In the second part of the Act a new measurement
for tonnage enabled a shipowner to construct vessels suitable
to his trade. It determined the dues leviable on ships accord-
ing to their loading capacity. It provided for certain conditions,
which did not nevertheless hamper the owner or shipwright in
his choice of shapes. The object was to ensure safety, and the
Act required water-tight compartments, boats, and much
Prior to the passing of this Act the average ship — that is,
the ship not built for any special work — exhibited in her lines
90 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
something of the old traditionary squabness and liimpishness
which you notice in the hull of the ' Terror/ as she rolls with
her consort off great icebergs, Some of the frigate-built ships
of the Merchant Service preserved this look of the * Terror.'
I sailed in one of them (she was called the ' Hougoumont'),
and, saving the steeve of the bowsprit and a few trifling
details aloft, she would have perfectly served the artist as a
model for the * Terror.'
To a certain degree the sailor is benefited by the structural
changes wrought in the ship during the past fifty years. He is
now, for the most part, sheltered by a tolerably roomy deck-
house, with windows for light ; and some owners are even so
generous as to provide him with a table on which to cut his
hard junk and beat the worms out of his biscuit.^ Formerly, in
the timber days, if the ship was flush-decked, Jack and his
brethren dwelt in a black and noisome holeri^rht forward under
a little hatch. If the ship w^asawet ship, this little hatch was
closed to prevent the fo'c'sle from filling, on which occasions
the flame of the slush-fed lamp burnt blue. The men could
scarcely see to read, or stitch, or cut up a piece of tobacco for
their pipes. Their malodorous fare was handed down to them
in tubs, and they got their dinner as best they could, by jab-
bing at the contents of the tub and carrying a bit away as if
they were dogs ; and often they wanted tin dishes, and used a
biscuit for a trencher.
If the ship carried a topgallant-forecastle, the sailor slept in
a cave formed by this raised deck. The windlass blocked his
view of the prospect aft. The interior was only a little less dark,
and just a little less wretched, than the miserable den under
deck. The shipbuilder has helped Jack in this matter. But it
^ Nevertheless, the iinder-deck forecastle is still very common in steam
tramps and sailing ships.
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 95
is unaccountable that the foremast hand should have been for
centuries utterly unconsidered by his employer, and treated as
if he made no part of the ship at all. Why was this ? Is the
crew of a ship useless on board of her? What can the owners
substitute for men ? Not yet has the inventor charmed us
with a piece of mechanism which, when wound up, shall run
aloft, shall reef and steer, and shall not keck at salt pork
because it shall never know hunger. That the British sailor
has been, and to a shameful extent still is, the most neglected,
and in consequence the most ill-used, of all men, I have been
saying all through my professional life ; and this, I fear, I shall
have to go on saying till my hand lies cold in the soil.
British steam swept the Yankee clipper off the seas ; oceans
of canvas and hulls of faultless mould could not prevail against
the diligent slap of the side-wheel or the secret thrust of the
propeller. Nevertheless, the Americans had made a very
noble stand. It was only when they found their shipping
almost unremunerative, owing to the heaps of tonnage which
lay idle upon their hands, that they gave up. Fleets of ships
had been built in the Californian rush, and for the Cali-
fornian trade, between 1849 ^^^ 1854. One of the finest
of these was the * Great Republic,' the earliest four-masted
ship — properly so called. Her burthen was 3,400 tons, though
she was launched to register 4,000 tons ; she was 300 feet
long, 53 feet beam, and 30 feet depth of hold ; she carried a
donkey engine of 8 horse-power for working ship, and for
loading and discharging purposes. She thrashed from New
York to the Scilly Islands in thirteen days. The French
Government chartered her as a transport for the conveyance
of troops for tne Crimea ; otherwise, being thought too large
for ordinary purposes, she must have remained long on the
hands of her consicrnees.
94 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
At the date on which I am writing these articles it is entirely
the other way about as regards size ; the orders given are foi
very large ships.' A gentleman writes to me, from a well-known
Tyneside shipping yard, that in 1875 the average size of sailing-
ships ran from i.ooo to 1,800 tons, and steamers from i.oooto
3,000 tons ; and to-day (1895) sailing ships run from 2,000 to
3,000 tons, and steamers from 3,000 to 12,000 tons. Never-
theless, the ' Great Republic ' would be considered a big ship
even in this age.
I cannot but refer here to a superb type of clipper ship built
A DKAL (JAI.LEV PUNT
in British yards and sent afloat between i860 and 1872. As
ocean goingships they liad neverbeen, possibly they never will
be. equalled. They had the speed of steam in their nimble
keels. Amongst these ships were the ' Fiery Cross,' the 'Ariel,'
'Sir Lancelot,' and the ' Thermopyls." This last ship made
her first voyage frojn London to Melbourne in sixty days — the
' Fi<ie ihe ' Oceanic' The very big ship is a very big blunder, (he offspring
of coiii[>eiioii and not of progress. When an 'Oceanic' sinks she carries
with her the vaUie, and ]ierliaj)s the lives, of four compar.itively small, but
swift, safe, and comnindions slcamers.
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 95
fastest passage on record. She is still afloat, I believe. A
few years a^jo I saw her at anchor in the Downs, with the in-
evitable Deal galley punt loafing under her quarter. She had
a racing look in her lofty rig, and her cutwater at the entry
came rather abruptly aft, much in the fashion of the stems of
the yachts they build in these times. I did not admire this
feature, but I judged it was good for the ship. She, like
many of her sisters, was a composite vessel — that is, her ribs
were of iron and the rest of the hull was formed of wood. It
seems proper to state here that this beautiful and memorable
ship was designed by the late Bernard Waymouth, for many
years secretary to Lloyd s Register.
There was plenty of spirit in racing amongst the clippers in
those days. They were mainly tea-ships ; and in one famous
race three sailed from Foo-Choo-Foo on the same day, lost sight
of one another until they met in the English Channel, and all
three sailed up the river Thames almost upon one another's
heels. In connection with these races it is related that an
English clipper named the * Crest of the Wave ' and an Ameri-
can clipper named the * Sea Serpent' sailed together from
Shanghai for London. The Yankee was to receive thirty
shillings per ton extra freight on his cargo of tea if he beat the
' Crest of the Wave.* The ships arrived off the Isle of Wight
at the same hour, and the American skipper, going ashore,
started by rail for London, and reported his ship at the Cus-
tom House before she and her rival had passed through the
Downs. Thisp that American skipper might have thought
'cute ; but it was not racing. Why did he take the trouble to
sail his ship all the way home? He might have handed the
vessel over to his chief mate to navi^rate to the Thames and
taken steam to London where he could have reported the * Sea
Serpent' to the Custom House when she was off the Cape of
96 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
The story of the use of iron as a material for the construction
of ships is full of interest. Iron was long ago used experiment-
ally for building boats ; several references to these crude
A 10-GUN BRIG
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 97
attempts will be found in the * Annual Register' of last century.
Grantham quotes from a publication dated July 28, 1787.
The writer says : * A few days ago a boat built of English iron
by J. Wilkinson, Esq , of Bradley Forge, came up our canal to
this town, loaded with twenty-two tons and fifteen hundred-
weight of its own metal, &c. It is nearly of equal dimensions
with other boats employed upon the canal, being 70 feet long,
and 6 feet 8J inches wide ; the thickness of the plates with
which it is made is about five-sixteenth of an inch, and it is put
together with rivets, like copper or fire-engine boilers ; but the
stem and stern posts are wood, and the gunwale lined with the
same ; the beams are made of elm planks. Her weight is about
eight tons ; she will carry, in deep water, upwards of thirty-two
tons, and draws eight or nine inches of water when light.* It is
extraordinary that such hints as these should have fallen dead.
Was there no shipbuilder with an eye swift to witness the
enormous possibilities latent in these little canal experiments?
A small iron boat was launched in August 181 5. She was fitted
up in Liverpool as a pleasure-boat. Hundreds viewed her as a
curiosity. She was sunk maliciously in the Duke's Dock, as
though some Daniel Quilp of a workman, foreseeing iron as an
issue if this boat was suffered to go on hinting, had put an end to
her. Her owner raised her, and sold her for old iron, but * the
loss of this boat,' he says, * turned my attention to the practica-
bility of making an iron boat which could not be sunk by any
ordinary means.' He constructed a model of a lifeboat, and
applied for a patent for her in April 1818. She was to be built
wholly of iron, and to possess remarkable buoyant and self-
righting properties. This gentleman, whose name was Jevons,
came into the world, strictly in a shipping sense, about forty
years too soon.
Meanwhile in the Royal Navy, down to the iron age, and
98 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
long after, ships of the sort which Nelson and Exmouth had
commanded were very much afloat. The ten-gun * pelter * was
in existence, occasionally going down stern foremost. For
years and years a nautical eye might have found it hard to
detect any structural alterations or improvements in frigates or
line-of-battle ships. Here and there a round stern with guns
showing ; here and there a square stern magnificently finished,
with mouldings, windows, quarter-galleries, and the like ; but
the line-of-battle ships, the frigates and the corvettes, the brigs
and the cutters, remained as though there was never to be a
change. The liners all looked like the * Victory.' Lord (then
Mr. T. H.) Farrer, of the Board of Trade, speaks of one of his
colleagues in 1850 as Admiral Beechey, an officer of intelli-
gence who had been largely employed in surveying, and was
well acquainted with steam-vessels. Yet this same gentleman
declared that he did not believe the Navy of the future — the
Royal Navy — would ever be built of iron and driven by steam.
Nor could he endure iron ships. * It was a very few years after
this,' says Lord Farrer, * that, in company with him, I witnessed
one of the most beautiful sights of my life — the Naval Review
at Spithead in the first summer of the Russian War, when the
last four sailing vessels of the Royal Navy formed the attack-
ing squadron. I shall never forget the beauty of the scene,
when late in the afternoon these magnificent ships came on
with a gentle breeze from the east, and the descending sun
shed a dying glory on their towers of canvas. It was a fit
obsequy for the hearts of oak of Rodney, Howe, and Nelson.'
This is very eloquently said ; and the sigh in it, the regret, the
last fond, lingering look behind, touchingly illustrate that sort of
official hate of change which found expression in British wooden
battleships m tow when the ocean was already covered with
iron commercial steamers. What would the heroic James Cook
THE SHIP: HER STORY. loi
have thought, if not said — Cook of the hung head and scowling
brow, Cook our island s darling circumnavigator — what would
Cook have thought had he returned home from his first voyage,
and, learning that steam had been applied to navigation, asked
for a steamer and received this official answer : * No ; it is true
that the steamer is in existence, but we do not choose to recog-
nise her. For centuries we have managed very well with tacks
and sheets ; you have blown round the world very comfortably,
we make no doubt, in your ship, the health of whose crew does
you credit, whilst we cannot but own we are much pleased with
your discoveries ' ? I can see that Whitby sailor spit as he walks
out of Whitehall. Why is it that those who have the adminis-
tration of the marine affairs of the greatest maritime Power in
the world always lag in the rear, look stupidly and dimly as
through coloured glasses at novelties, break the patentee's heart
by cold rejection, and start at last out of a grandmotherly doze
at the note of the war-blast borne across the waters ? Of course
it is not hard to find the exact reason why this should be ; but
we must not seek for it in patriotism. Is the head of a depart-
ment as a rule a patriot ? Does he love his country and labour
only for her good ? Would he rather forfeit private benefits than
help forward by quick acceptance of a good thing that state-paid
machinery, the Navy ? Let us hope that the British Official,
head or no head, is a patriot. Yet it is strange that the Royal
Navy should languish in the hands of patriots, that no attempt
should be made to provide for men to man the fleet, that no
briskness should ever be discovered in the nature of private
contracts and in Government yards till the foe has begun to
arm and the Press to yell. The manning of the fleet is a diffi-
culty that will trouble a good many people some of these days.
1 There can be no doubt whatever that that machine, the battleship or
cruiser, must soon come under the entire control of the only people who
understand her — I mean the Royal Naval Engineers.
I02 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
In what direction do the eyes of the heads and the authorities
turn when they talk of manning the fleet? The merchant
sailor complains that the foreigner is accepted over him : it is
true. Sixty or seventy per cent, of foreigners now fill those
ships which certain protective clauses in the old Navigation
Laws would have made nurseries of — nurseries of British sea-
men. Not a craft but should have been dealt with as a
nursery. The very smacksmen, harmless trawlers on the Dog-
gerbank, these and their giant apprentices should under the
apprenticeship clause have helped swell the lists of men avail-
able for the manning of the merchantman in the hour of need.
And, touching the smack as a type, one must say, even of
this quaint and picturesque detail of the coast, that she has
shared the fate of ships and sufifered improvement. Certainly
there are no finer craft of their kind afloat than many of the
smacks of the eastern coasts and the vessels which hail from
Ramsgate. I sometimes wonder what sort of a fabric was that
old cod-smack whose bowsprit smashed through the window
of the cabin in which Mr. Henry Fielding, the author of * Tom
Jones,' was seated, a helpless cripple, waiting for the brute of
a captain to lift his anchor and carry him and his w^fe away
to Lisbon. She probably lives somewhere in Hogarth. That
she was all buttock, bow, and well, we need not fear to believe.
No doubt the old cod-smack floated propertied with all those
quaintnesses which characterised the shipping of her time.
But she must yield and sink out of sight into the ooze of years
when the modern smack comes smoking along.
I will take a dandy-rigged smack of sixty tons : she shall be
called the * Cambria,* and she shall hail from Ramsgate. I
have looked at such a vessel often, and never without admiring
more and more the skill and judgment which have gone to the
buildingr of her. Her hi^^h bow dominates the seas ; swiftness
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 103
IS not needful, she does not want to tear her nets to pieces ;
her mainmast is so stepped as to seem to incline forward, but
it is the sheer that deceives the eye. Years of practical ex-
perience are in her. She has been built to fight the North
Sea, and she has come ofT victorious, often sailing out of a
hurricane with her hold full of great white fish, whilst big
ships founder in the haze of the horizon as she flies past, soar-
ing in foam with the buoyancy of the bird that follows her.
I04 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
A GOOD many years ago Mr. Chatfield, of her Majesty's
Dockyard, Plymouth, read at a meeting of the British
Association a paper on shipbuilding, in the course of which he
communicated these interesting facts to his audience. He
said that an 8o-gun ship — such a vessel, for example, as the
* Hindostan,' which was then nearly ready for being launched —
demanded in materials about 4,200 loads of timber, the produce
of 90 acres of ground, occupying 80 years in its growth, which
would be equal to 5,600 acres for one year. The value of the
labour was about 12,000/. The cost of the ship was 72,000/.
Mr. Chatfield stated that the average durability of ships of war
'employed on active service has been calculated to be about
thirteen years when built of British oak, which happens,' he
added, *to be precisely the period the ** Hindostan" has been
building, for she was commenced in August 1828, and will be
launched in August 1841.'
The * Hindoston ' ate up many acres ; yet she was just that
type of vessel for whose retention in the service of her coun-
try my lords and post-captains and aged lieutenants, and a
vast number of people whose power of intellectual vision
might be gauged by the length of their noses, were blustering
and chattering, with the acrimony of stupid men and the noise
of a forestful of monkeys.
The lontr and short of it was : Much about the time when
the question of building ships in iron was being hotly debated
by all whom it interested, thai, if the spade had not been driven
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 105
into the earth in an enthusiastic upheaval of the ore with
which many districts of this country teem, our shipping would
have faded ; we should have degenerated as a maritime power
into another Norway or Swedien. The country was full of iron,
but was growing rapidly short of timber. It was a national
question, then, that our ships should be built in our own ports,
with materials of our own production, procured by the labour
of our own population. This was the contention of the excel-
lent and heroic John Grantham, who was amongst the first to
plead — by the pen, by declamation, and by the example of
building — for the substitution of timber by iron in the con-
struction of the ship.
It is scarcely credible that the employment of iron in ship-
building should for years have continued to meet with bigoted
opposition — that is, in the face of the success, or the promises
of enormous future success, which had been achieved out of
this metal. For instance, the first iron steamer that ever put
to sea was called the * Aaron Manby,' and was built, in or
about 182 1, from parts which had been manufactured in Paris
and sent to London to be put together. It is honourable to
the memory of Sir Charles Napier, creditable to his sagacity
and foresight, that he should have foreseen in some sort the
issues of a conjunction of metal with steam. He it was who
formed a society or company jointly with the engineer Charles
Manby for the building of this iron steamboat. When she was
built (in London) she received a cargo of linseed and iron
castings, and Captain Napiersafely navigated her from London
, to Havre, thence to Paris. From 1822 to 1830 the hull of the
* Aaron Manby * never required to be repaired, though she had
been often aground when full up with cargo. The country,
with the Admiralty in the foreground, looked on and made no
sign. The * Aaron Manby ' was certainly no beauty. She was
io6 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
not like the typical frigate, for example ; but she was a hint of
deepest significance. And, consistently with the traditions of
the Red Tape departments, the Heads, in the manner of Sir
Joshua, shifted their ear-trumpets and only took snuff.
FULTON S FIRST STEAMtR, THE ' CLERMONT
Scott Russell, the well-known engineer, in a short treatise
gave an example of the character of the objections urged
against iron. ' A good many years ago,' he says, ' I happened
to converse with the chief naval architect of one of our dock-
yards on the subject of building ships of iron. The answer
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 107
was characteristic, and the feeling it expressed so strong and
natural that I have never forgotten it. He said, with some
indignation, ** Don't talk tome about iron ships : it's contrary
Although we hear of iron boats in the last century, whilst
so long ago as 1809 Richard Trevethick and another proposed
the building of * large ships with decks, beams, and sides of
plate iron,' also with * masts, yards, and spars to be constructed
of iron in plates, with telescope joints or screwed together,' yet
it does not appear that the first iron vessel deserving the
name made her appearance before 181 8, in which year she was
built on the banks of the Monkton Canal. It might be, how-
ever, that there is as much uncertainty as to the date of the
launchinor of the first iron vessel as there is as to the claims of
the invention of the screw-propeller, or, which is more serious,
of the marine engine. One is surprised, on looking into sea
literature, to find how much was anticipated in theory, but
delayed in practice by ignorance and obstinacy. What sailor,
who has not studied this subject, but must be astonished to
hear that some ninety odd years ago Trevethick was propos-
ing, or had manufactured, that sort of masts *with telescope
joints' with which certain of our sailing ships are equipped in
our times ? No doubt the real inventor is the man who
applies the idea. Not much good can result in an old Lord
Worcester, for example, sitting musing over the possibilities
of steam as expressed by a spouting tea-kettle and the tremors
of the kettle's lid ; we are more obliged to James Watt for his
embodiment — to Watt who explained, in 1769, how the steam-
engine was to be made and employed effectively for marine
The history of the steamer carries the reader farther back
into history than those who have not given their attention to-
io8 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
the subject would think possible. 'Wonderful thing, steam,
sir,' is sti!l as frequent a thought in the mind in these days as
it was a stereotyped exclamation in times when Charles Dickens
was young, and in the age of the first of the dog's-eared
Thames steamers. Even so long ago as 1630 David Ramsay
obtained a patent for an invention ' to make boats, ships, and
barges to go against wind and tide,' and 'to raise water from
low pits by fire.' The procession of steamboat inventors,
THE CONFEDERATE CRUISER 'ALABAMA
indeed, is rather long: they march in upon us of this century
out of the dark ages ; but unfortunately they bring nothing
but their ideas with them. Every man flourishes his specifica-
tion ; but one can't steam to New York in six days on a dream.
Let us then start with a gentleman who devised something
that begins to look like a boat with stern wheels, and a funnel
in the forecastle. His name was Jonathan Hull, and the date
of his ship is about 1736. To-day a well-known firm of
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 109
Thames builders (Messrs. Yarrow) are frequently constructing
stern-wheel steamers for rivers and shallow waters. I do not
say that their vessels are not more beautiful than old Jonathan
Hull's little, lumpish steam ark, but Hull's was first, and so
we salute his memory.
Hull's scheme for obtaining a rotary motion was wonderfully
clever, but nothing short of his specification could explain it,
and the reader might not thank me for reproducing a document
(out of * Woodcroft's Specifications of Marine Propulsion ')
which is all about how to drive a paddle-wheel by converting a
reciprocating rectilinear motion into a continuous rotary one.
The invention of the marine steam-engine has avast number
of claimants. One looks around the crowd bewildered. If I
may, with the utmost modesty, venture an opinion, I should say
that the first man to give practical and useful form to the idea
of driving a wooden hull by steam machinery was Symington,
who, in 1 801, fitted up a steamboat, at the instance of Lord
Dundas, for the Forth and Clyde Canal Company. She towed
two vessels of an aggregate burden of a hundred and forty tons,
at the rate of three miles and a quarter per hour, in the teeth
of a strong breeze. Justice should be done to John Fitch,
however, an American, who so early as 1784 had obtained
rights to run steamboats on the waters of Virginia and Mary-
land. His partner was one Rumsey. Afterwards the States of
Pennsylvania and New York granted Fitch exclusive rights
in the use of their waters. His boat was nine tons, and his
engine drove her five miles an hour. He failed for want of
money, and died by his own hands in 1798. One who knew
him says he could think of nothing but his steamboat, and he
fell into rags and broken boots through wandering about talk-
ing of her. The same authority says that he met him at the
house of a boat-builder, a man named Wilson, with whom was
no THE SHIP: HER STORY.
associated his blacksmith, Peter Brown, where, ' after indulging
himself for some time in this never-failing topic of deep excite-
THE FALL RIVER BOAT ' PURl
THE SHIP: HER STORY. iii
ment, he concluded with these memorable words : ** Well
gentlemen, though I shall not live to see the time, you will,
when steamboats will be preferred to all other means of convey-
ance, and especially for passengers ; and they will be particu-
larly useful in the navigation of the river Mississippi/' He
then retired ; on which Brown, turning to Wilson, exclaimed in
a tone of deep sympathy, ** Poor fellow ! what a pity he is
Robert Fulton, by the Americans, appears to be advanced
as the person who first conceived the idea of propelling vessels
by steam. Whether he borrowed his notion from Symington
or not matters little to us who ofet the ofood of it. It is not an
international question, and others in an experimental way were
before them both. Fulton's first boat was the 'Clermont/ and
those who describe her say that her engine was uncommonly
like that of the machinery of the ' Charlotte Dundas,' the boat
which Symington had engined. As a craft driven by steam
she made a considerable figure for those times, being 130 feet
long and i6i feet broad, and of a carrying capacity of 160 ton ;
her engine was 18 horse-power. All things considered, she
looks a shapely boat in her picture. Her paddle-wheels are
indeed far forward, and her rig. a single pole formast, one yard
across, and mizzen-mast, is not very pleasing, but her hull is
quite sightly ; her run from the sponsons suggests the clipper
lines of the future ship.
A steamer called the * Comet* was plying between Glasgow
and Greenock in 181 3. She was the fruit of the genius of
Henry Bell. All the best engineers appear to have been
Scotchmen. This admirable thinker went to the British
Government with his ideas. It will be supposed that the Board
of Admiralty gave this genius a very careful hearing, closely
examined his specifications, promised him handsome pecuniary
112 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
aid in the development of his noble ideas, and affirmed tiieir
intention to be present at any test experiments in this wonder-
ful new power and application of steam which Mr, Bell might be
DONALD CUKHLE LINER ' DUNOTIAR CATTLE'
good enough to make. In reality the Board of Admiralty
declined to give Bell a hearing. He went to foreign European
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 113
Governments with his scheme, but met with no response. He
went to the Government of the United States, but Fulton was
before him. Fulton and he, nevertheless, got into correspon-
dence. Fulton appears to have written to Bell at the instance
of the United States Government. He got what he could from
Bell, and thanked him by saying * he had constructed a steamer
from the different drawings of the machinery forwarded to
him by Bell, which was likely to succeed with some necessary
improvements.* This man Fulton appears to have been a cold,
unfeeling person, who, borrowing his ideas from poor or
impoverished inventors, * improved* upon them, for no other
purpose than to appropriate them. Bell, heart-sickened, went
to work, with the help of John Wood & Company, of Port
Glasgow, to build a steamer of 40 feet keel and 10 feet 6 inches
beam, with an engine and paddles. This little steamer was
certainly wanting in the comeliness of Fulton's. It is impossi-
ble to think of her, nevertheless, without reverence. As you
gaze the new era seems to dawn. In the gloom and chill of
that great change you see the figures of those early inventors,
men much laughed at, much neglected, but of spirit too fiery and
obstinate to be subdued by the grin of the fool or the neglect of
the official bigwig. Out of that little * Comet ' grows the mag-
nificent steamship of to-day. Who can calculate the usefulness
such a man as Bell has proved to the world ? We see kings
and queens set up on high in stone, we behold effigies to snobs
and nobs, memorials to people who were a curse to their species
in their lives. I confess I am revolutionist enoucrh at heart to
wish to see many of these travesties, degrading to the dignity
of man, levelled, and their pompous and ridiculous inscriptions
defaced, and the images of such true friends of humanity as
Bell set up on high in their room.
Private enterprise helped forward an invention which our
114 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
Government would not even glance askant at. A steamboat
was built at Leeds in 1813, and two in the same year at
Manchester and Bristol respectively. The largest steamer,
according to the author of the ' Life of James Watt,' that had
been built up to the year 1813 was the ' Glasgow,' of 74 tons
and 16 horse-power. Two years later the ' Morning Star,' of
100 tons and 26 horse-power, and the ' Caledonia,' of 102 tons
and 32 horse-power, were launched. The stem of the steam-
WHITE STAR LINER 'MAJESTIC
boat had at last swept through the barricade of prejudice, and
the ocean lay under her bows.
It would fatigue the reader to give one by one the names of
the ships which followed close in the waUe of the ' Comet ' and
Symington's craft. We scarcely come to anything consider-
able in steam until David Napier steps upon the scene. There
is no name more honourably associated with the develop-
ment of the marine steam-engine than David Napier's. He
was one of the earliest to give practical and expansive appli-
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 115
cation to what may justly be called the * discovery/ He en-
gined the *Rob Roy' in 18 18, from the yard of that cele-
brated firm of shipbuilders, William Denny & Bros, (there
were no brothers, however, I believe, till 1847: I mention
these firms as they are now known). The * Rob Roy * — a
small vessel, an experimental, but a quite successful craft —
was followed by several larger wooden steamers, and these
boats established a regular line of steam between Liverpool
By degrees the steamship increased in breadth and length.
Steele of Greenock in 1826 built the * United Kingdom';
Napier engined her; and this miracle of her age was 160 feet
long and 26i feet beam, and she was driven by engines of 200
horse-power. Crowds assembled to view her ; greater crowds
would assemble to view her if she were still afloat. It has,
however, been justly remarked that the progress of steam would
have been slow — possibly, indeed, a halt might have been cried
had it not been for the substitution of iron for wood. We have
only to conceive such a fabric, say, as that of the old * Royal
George' engined with a power that drives such a ship as the
latest of the Cunarders over the Atlantic: she would go to
pieces like a house of cards ; her engines would sink out of her ;
and in a mighty explosion the last of the old bucket would be
seen high aloft coming down in a thunderstorm of blackened
beams and burning plank.
It is not a little extraordinary that, whilst the marine steam-
engine was occupying the attention of such inventors as I have
named, there should have been men as heroic as the steam
pioneers, who were insisting upon the utilisation of iron as a
material for the construction of ships, if the shipping of this
country was to be saved to her in any sort of abundance. The
two conditions of steam and iron arose side by side, as though
ii6 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
there was a special providence in this marvellous conjunction.
As we have seen, the first /rt^w steamer was the * Aaron Manby ' ;
the next was the ' Marquis Wellesley,' built by the Horsley
Company. She was constructed on the principle of what was
then called the twin-boat — that is, she had her paddle-wheel in
"'' ^ ~l^^"' • i" 1825, and in 1868 her hull was
- '_ ^r'"^" * reported to be sound and the best
. ''; -;"v ; J part of her. Amongst the earlier iron
.-";>- ." " steamers of note were the ' Alburkah,'
. a vessel 70 feet long by ij feet beam,
with an engine of 16 horse-power, built by MacGregor Laird in
183 1, and engined by Fawcett & Co. (she drew 3 feet 6 inches,
and her passage to the River Niger was rendered notable by
her disproving the old-fashioned idea that a light draught of
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 117
water was dangerous) ; the ' John Randolph/ 250 tons, built
for Savannah in 1833, and the * Garry Owen/ for the Lower
Shannon, in 1834, both by John Laird, who, it was stated, had
by this year already constructed 225 vessels, of an aggregate
burthen of 88,000 tons and 16,200 horse-power.
This is sixty years ago ; and now a single steamship will
nearly receive the horse-power that was distributed amongst
225 vessels. The progress is marvellous; but the wreaths lie
thickest where the race began. The * Rainbow,' of 580 tons,
the * Nemesis,' and * Phlegethon * were next sent afloat.
These last two ships were built by Laird for the East India
Company, and they should always be memorable in the annals
of iron ship-building as being the first iron steamers ever
engaged in warfare. They took part in the China War of
1842. Captain (afterwards Admiral) Sir VV. H. Hall was in
command of the * Nemesis,' and in his evidence before a Com-
mittee on Navy Estimates, which sat in 1848, he stated that
his ship was struck fourteen times by the enemy's shot. ' One
shot went in at one side and came out at the other ; it went
right through the vessel. There were no splinters : it went
through just as if you had put your finger through a piece of
paper.' Several wooden steamers, he told the Committee,
were employed upon the same service, and they all had to lie
up for repairs ; whilst the commander of the * Nemesis ' could
repair his vessel in twenty-four hours, and have her always
ready for service. * Repairs which would have taken in a
wooden ship seven days would have taken in ours as many
Commander Robinson, in * The British Fleet,' apologises
for Admiralty inertness at this period, but one presumes that
he does not wish to be taken seriously. He says that 'atten-
tion began to be turned to the capabilities of steam in naval
ri8 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
warfare shortly after 1815/ Yet he points out that nothing
was done for seven years, when a couple of small wooden
paddle-steamers were built, with a view of towing ships of war
in and out of harbour. To Brunei's urgent representations
that steam was the incoming power, and that everything must
presently yield to it, their lordships, in their traditionary
waggish way, replied as follows : * They deemed it unneces-
sary to enter into the question as to how far the power of the
steam-engine might be made applicable to the general pur-
poses of navigation.' In this fashion are the interests of a
nation promoted by square men in round holes, who deem
Lindsay took some trouble to collect the reasons for the
Admiralty's rejection of steam, and for their lordships' deplor-
able tardiness in the adoption of iron instead of timber as a
material for shipbuilding. He points out that the Admiralty
contended — first, that a shot would penetrate an iron ship more
easily than a wooden one, whilst the holes could not be plugged ;
second, wood, when pierced, rapidly contracted, and ahiiost
healed itself. As usual, experience was bought at a heavy
cost to the nation. The Admiralty had to discover that a
paddle-box is a target to an enemy, and that the screw-pro-
peller submerged does its work secretly and hiddenly ; the
Admiralty were also forced to learn that iron was better than
wood for purposes of warfare. * Yet,' says Lindsay, * these res-
olutions were only carried into practice after vast sums of
money had been expended on the reconstruction of a wooden
British Navy, for which in one year alone, and that so lately
as 1 86 1, when almost everybody except themselves saw that
iron must supersede timber, they demanded from Parliament
(and carried their vote) no less than 949,371/. to replenish the
stock of wood in the dockyards — a sum far in excess of any
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 119
previous vote for that material/ The moral of this slowness
of official comprehension is — what? If we look around, shall
we be able to apply it to to-day ? The speaking-trumpet of
the old cocked-hatted seafarer sounds from afar, and warns
us, in a note of alarm, not to hang back as he did, but to go
ahead. I say that that speaking-trumpet otight to sound ; but,
unhappily, it is too often buried with its owner, and is choked,
and we heed not what we hear not.
It has been said that the screw propeller was known to the
Chinese ; it is possible that the advocates of the claimants to
this invention may have agreed to attribute it to the Chinese
for the sake of peace. There are many claimants. The
French genius of the screw stands upright in stone at
Boulogne ; but another Frenchman, it seems, was before M.
Sauvage. In this country in the last century we had Was-
borough and Bramah and Shorter with ideas about the screw
propeller, and these men were certainly ahead of Frederic
Sauvage of Boulogne, seeing that he did nothing till 1832. I
think we must all claim the invention, or application of the
propeller, as we now know it, for Thomas Pettit Smith —
though that very clever Swede, Ericsson, deserves all honour-
able mention for his handsome efforts to introduce the propeller
into the United States. His first patron was Captain Stock-
ton, for whom he built two propeller-boats for American waters.
But the story of the screw must be reserved for another article.
I20 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
I CANNOT gather that the importation of the screw pro-
peller at the start materially altered the shape of ships.
Specifications of early paddle-wheel steamers and of early
screw steamers lie before me; and proportionately to their
tonnage I observe little or no difference between them in their
length and breadth. In 1833 Mr. Robert Wilson submitted a
screw of his own invention to the Admiralty. The Woolwich
Dockyard officials rejected it because they thought that it
involved a greater loss of power than the common mode of
applying the wheels to the side. So Wilson's screw went the
way of many other good things. Then followed Captain John
Ericsson : his experiments were watched by the Lords of the
Admiralty, who were accompained by Sir William Symonds,
the designer of some of the most beautiful models which ever
floated upon the seas. Sir William does not seem to have
appreciated the screw ; he suspected that a ship would not
steer if driven by a propeller, and this was his judgment in
spite of the practical tests which he witnessed in company
with * my lords/ Sir Edward Parry and Captain Beaufort.
Meanwhile — that is, on May 31, 1836 — Mr. Thomas Pettit
Smith had patented a propeller of his own invention. He
fitted it to a vessel called the ' Archimedes,' of something
under two hundred and fifty tons, and a draught of a trifle
over nine feet. Three years passed away, during which the
'Archimedes' does not appear to have greatly raised the
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 121
screw-propeller in the esteem of mankind. She raced with the
* Widgeon/ a fast paddle steamer for her age ; both were under
canvas, and the * Archimedes ' beat. The * Archimedes '
decisively illustrated the advantage of the screw over the
paddle-wheel. There was no huge paddle-box to be torn
away by a mountain-high sea, leaving the red wheel whirling
naked in foam ; the thrust was secret, and just that very power
of propulsion which you would say the Britisli Admiralty
should have immediately applied to their warships. What
followed ? The ' Archimedes 'lay unemployed in dock. Her
proprietors offered her for sale, and the man to whom their
lordships and the world were indebted for the introduction of
the screw-propeller lost all the capital he had embarked.
Eventually — that is. in 1843 — ^ screw steamer named the
* Rattler ' was ordered by the Admiralty. Her lines were very
fine for those days : she was 195 feet extreme length and 33 feet
extreme breadth, and her carrying capacity was 888 tons.
(Commander Robinson writes of her as a hundred tons less
than this.) Her trials were not convincing. In 1845 she was
in company with the * Victoria and Albert ' and the * Black
Eagle,' and in a strong head wind they went ahead of her.
This appears to have produced an unfavourable impression,
and the ' Rattler ' certainly retarded the progress of the screw
in its application to ships of war.
Steam, however, whether by the agency of the screw or the
paddle-wheel, was to revolutionise the state and form of the
ship. In the merchant service this was peculiarly so. The
steamer was wanted for purposes of trade and profit. She was
to be shaped by the influence of the cost of freight per ton. It
is to iron, however, that we must turn for our illustrations of
marine architecture. The British Government applied the
propeller ta their wooden ships of war despite the disastrous
122 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
experience of others. For example, shortly after the introduc-
tion of the screw, attempts were made by the Americans to
apply it to large timber-built vessels for the merchant service,
and four or five ships arrived one after another at Liverpool.
They were fine vessels, but not one of them made a second
voyage, in consequence of their commercial failure. This I
state on the authority of Grantham. The screw seems unfitted
to timber. One might suppose that great masses of iron wheel
whirring and thrashing on either side of a wooden fabric would
prove more swiftly destructive than the screw. Yet the early
American lake and river steamers disproved this : they were
built of wood, they were thrashed through it at mighty speeds,
and the structures hung together till they blew up. Our artist
submits a charming picture of an American wood-built river
boat In the construction of these boats the American builder
THE ' GRKAT EASTERN*
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 125
has given us a convincing example of his genius and judgment.
When the Americans first began to build their river steamers,
they were immeasurably ahead of ours in model and speed.
Most of their boats were, as they still are, wonderful illustra-
tions of fitness to requirements. To Robert L. Stevens the
American river boat owed her qualities of charm of shape and
swiftness of keel. He built on the finest models; nothing
sharper in entrance, nothing cleaner in runs, had before been
attempted. He cut old craft in halves and lengthened them
thirty feet, adding a false bow that gave them another twenty
feet forward in true lines with the planking, and they skimmed
the water at twenty miles an hour.
As the need for such vessels increased, and the builders'
experience enlarged, these river steamers grew more and more
swift and splendid. The power of beautiful racing machinery
was in them, and drove them in meteoric flight; and, as has
been pointed out, the tenacity and strength of American iron
enabled the constructor to give his engines proportions much
lighter than would be thought safe in this or other countries.
Speaking of crossing the Atlantic Ocean by steam, Dr.
Dionysius Lardner, who was a very able man, despite that
last infimity of noble minds, the practice of predicting before
and not after the event, stated in 1835 that, * as to the project
which was announced in the newspapers, of making the voyage
directly from New York to Liverpool, it was, he had no
hesitation in saying, perfectly chimerical, and they might as
well talk of making a voyage from New York or Liverpool to
the moon.' This alarming prophecy, however, does not appear
to have damped the spirits of hopeful inventors and enterpris-
ing shipowners. I do not speak with conviction, yet I have an
idea that the first screw steamer that crossed the Atlantic was
the ' Robert F. Stockton,' built of iron by Laird. Her tonnage,
126 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
which I cannot find, may be gathered from her dimensions,
which were : length 70 feet, beam 10 feet, depth 6 feet 9 inches.
Her average speed in smooth water was about 7i knots. She
-carried a crew of four men and a boy ; her master was Captain
Cram. She was about forty-two days in accomplishing the
voyage to New York ; and Cram, on his arrival, was justly
presented with the freedom of that city.
Shipbuilding, indeed, now that iron and steam and the
paddle and the screw had combined their Titan forces, was,
<lespite departmental sloth and philosophic prophecy, about to
make gigantic departures, and to venture upon forms and
methods which would have as greatly astonished the early
advocates of metal in construction, as the ancient shipwright
would have been astounded by the recommendation of metal
plates instead of planks. Not that iron was to be instantly
surpreme : the ' Great Western,' a steamship that w^as the
marvel of her age, and the first that was specially constructed
for the trade between this country and America, was built of
wood by Patterson of Bristol. This ship was 212 feet long,
with 35 feet 4 inches beam, and an inch or two over 23 feet
<lepth of hold. She was a noble ship in her day, and greatly
admired. She made her first voyage to New York in fifteen
days, her average speed being 208 miles, or 8*2 per hour. Her
registered burden was 1,340 tons.
This was a big ship for 1838 ; but a bigger was to follow —
not until some years had elapsed, however, nor before every-
thing flying the red flag (with few exceptions) driven by steam
was being constructed of iron. On May i, 1854, Brunei and
Scott-Russell becfan the buildinor of the 'Great Eastern' at
Millwall, on the north side of the Thames. This immense ship
will always be talked about : she is a part of history, and, unlike
the majority of ships which are dead and gone, she belongs to
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 127
time. I was a mile away from her once when she passed
through the Gulls, and she looked as if she were a manufactur-
ing city gone adrift. I was rather too young to admire her hull ;
I could only marvel at the number of her chimneys and her
masts. Since then I have ascertained that she was a very per-
fect model, a ship within a ship, of a clean entry and a beauti-
ful, fair, and steady run in the exterior shell. Giantesses urged
by machinery infinitely more superb in invention and finish than
anything that was shipped aboard the * Leviathan ' (as she was
first called) are crushing the Atlantic surge daily ; but there is
nothing at this hour afloat, and probably the world will never
again see, so vast a sea-borne fabric as the * Great Eastern.' ^
Her length between perpendiculars was 680 feet, and on the
upper deck 692 feet ; the breadth of the hull was 83 feet, and
from paddle-box to paddle-box 118 feet. A contemporary en-
thusiast tells us that 118 feet * is the width of Portland Place,
one of the broadest streets in London.' The depth of this great
ship's hull was 60 feet ; the weight of the iron contained in her
hull 8,000 tons ; and the weight of the whole ship, when fully
laden, 25,000 tons. Thus loaded, she drew 30 feet of water.
Further statistics of her construction are curious. We recall
the number of acres of oak which an old man-of-war ate up.
Here was a ship held together by no less than 3,000,000 rivets.
The plates which formed her were 30,000 in number, and each
plate weighed about a third of a ton.
We need not pursue her story. She was an unfortunate ship
from the hour of her launch. Is there any moral in the memory
of her that is to express limitation in dimensions ? The cellular
system of water ballast seems to have been indicated in the con-
struction of this ship — though I cannot say that the idea orig-
inated with the designers. She could fill up with water ballast,
^ Written before the launch of the White Star Liner * Oceanic*
128 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
when necessary, to the weight of 2,50x5 tons. The * Great
Eastern ' was a huge hotel ; her tradition should be respected
by a generation who live in big hotels. She could have accom-
modated 4,000 passengers, irrespective of a crew amounting to
about 400. The captain telegraphed his orders to the engine-
room by electricity, and signalled his commands during the day
by semaphore arms and at night by coloured lamps. The life
of a master of such a ship must have been an uneasy one.
When it comes to the na violation of so much bulk, not one,
but half a dozen captains should sign her articles, and every
gentleman in buttons and lace should have a piece of the ship
to himself — all hands, of course, working in harmony.
It does not seem that iron suggested itself to anybody as a
material which might be useful in the protection of the sides
of battleships until the period of the great war between the
Northern and Southern States of America. When the Gosport
(U. S.) Navy-yard was burnt in 1861, among the ships des-
troyed was the frigate * Merrimac' She was scuttled as well
as fired, and sank before she was much damaofed. The Con-
federates raised and repaired her, and covered her with a slop-
ing roof, plating her with railway iron, and heavily sheathing
her bow with metal. They rechristened her the * Virginia * :
but the name of ' Merrimac ' stuck.
Reports of this ship reached the North, and alarmed the
Government. She undoubtedly quickened their movements
in the construction of armoured warships. One built by Erics-
son is represented by the artist. She was a novelty in naval
architecture in those days ; but we have lived to see ships
infinitely more ugly and out-and-away more perilous to those
who trusted their lives in them. She was 160 feet loner, with
a beam of 42 feet. Her deck, which was almost flush with
the water s edge, was crowned amidships by a revolving turret
THE SHIP: HER STORY.
carrying two eleven-inch Dahlgren guns. An interesting' anJ
a Cull statement of the loss of the ' Monitor ' will be found in
a communication from Rear-Admiral Lee, of the United
States Navy, in a report of the Secretary of the Navy in rela-
tion to armoured vessels (Washington, 1864).
The 'Merrimac' fought the 'Monitor' once, and fought
no more. Her shot flew over the Federal craft, which finding
her enemy aground, steered round and round her. When
THE CONFEDERATE IRONCLAD ' MERRIMAC
the armoured frigate floated, she steered to her anchorage at
Craney Island. It was the first battle between protected ships,
and interesting for that reason. The idea, then, of protecting
ships' sides with metal seems to. have originated with those
who raised and equipped the ' Merrimac ' ; Ericsson followed.
The ' Monitor's' revolving turret was the invention of Theo-
dore R. Timby, of Duchess County, New York, who had filed
a caveat and exhibited an iron model as early as 1843.
One of the largest ships built prior to the launch of the
I30 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
' Great Eastern ' was the ' Great Britain.' She was completed
in 1843, but did not make her experimental trip till the follow-
ing year. I count six masts in the picture before me, and a
single funnel ; she has chequered sides. She was one of the
best-built boats ever sent aHoat for, stranding on the coast of
Ireland shortly after she had been placed on the American
station, she lay a whole winter beaten by heavy seas without
THE ' MONITOR IN HAMPTON ROADS
suffering any material injury. Everybody talked of this ship
when she was fresh ; the Queen and Prince Albert visited her
on her arrival in tlie Thames. But the significance the com-
mercial world found In her lay in this: she was to be em-
ployed as one of the trans-Atlantic steamers built to drive the
celebrated American sailing clippers off to sea.
I particularly note that all that benefited the ship, all that
makes her nearly as we know her, came from our commercial
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 131
rivalry with the Americans. When they found their clippers
useless, they built a beautiful ship of 751 tons, and engined her
with an auxiliary screw — that is, a screw that can be raised out
of the water when thesailsonly are needed. She cost 16,000/.
But she would not do. The Cunard Company was in existence,
and had started the mail service with steam in 1840. The
' Cambria' and the * Hibernia' of this company were ships of
300 horse-power and 1,422 tons, and their average speed was
g\ knots. Their * America,' * Niagara,' ' Europe,' and * Canada
rose to 1820 tons; and they were driven by 680-horse-power
engines, their speed being loi knots. To oppose these ships,
which threatened destruction to their maritime commerce, the
Americans — for practically all America was interested — started
in 1847, a line of steamers which ran between New York and
Bremen, calling at Southampton. The Cunard liner 'Britannia'
raced the first of them (the ' Washington '), and beat her by
two full days, spite of the N'ew York HeralcCs advice to the
English vessel's skipper ' to run by the deep mines, and put
in more coal.' It is impossible to view the picture of the
* Washington' without wondering at her ugliness. One would
expect a comlier shape at the hands of an American builder. It
is remarkable that the unwieldy bulk, w^ith its hamper of square
rig, should have been slapped across the Atlantic in a passage
two days longer only than that occupied by the ' Britannia.'
The * Washington * was like an old wooden frigate. She was
about 2,000 tons burthen. The ' Britannia,' on the other hand,
was but 1,156 tons ; her nominal horse-power was 423 ; she was
207 feet long, and 34 feet 4 inches in extreme breadth ; and was
therefore a smaller ship than the 'Washington' and of less
power, the American's power being to her tonnage as i to 2,
while the * Britannia ' had only 1 horse-power to 2% tons. The
British ship will always be memorable as the vessel in which
132 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
Charles Dickens made his first voyage to America. Theverj'
best sea description in the language is the great novelists
account of the behaviour of the ' Britannia' in a gale.
Competition continued keen between America and this
country. The Government of the United States guaranteed a
considerable sum per voyage to the steam vessels of the
company that was being promoted by the well-known E. K,
Collins of New York. All this signified fresh struggles and
new departures in the science of shipbuilding. The Collins
steamers were about 3,000 tons register and 800 horse-power ;
they were built chiefly of live oak, and the fabrics were
strengthened by a lattice-work of iron bands. They are said to
have been beautiful models. One of them, the ' Arctic,' was
known as the ' Clipper of the Seas.' This steamer was built by
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 133
W. H. Brown of New York under the superintendence of
George Steers, who modelled the famous yacht * America ' of
which our artist has provided us with a spirited sketch.
I misfht mention the Collins liner * Pacific * as an illustration
of the influence of competition in the direction of shapes and
interior equipment. Here was a ship with three decks, sitting
as high on the water as an old galleon ; her bottom was flat,
and her immersed section almost a parallelogram. This ship,
in May 1851, steamed across the Atlantic from New York to
Liverpool in 9 days 20 hours 16 minutes. In July the * Arctic *
belonging to the same line, made the passage in 9 days 17
hours 12 minutes. It is more than forty years ago. In forty
years we have reduced the steaming time of those old ships
by some days. Considering, however, the enormous horse-
power that is now employed, the prodigious experiences
(gotten from those early strugglers, and their immediate
successors) embodied in the magnificent structures of to-day, it
is not evident that we have a right to triumph very greatly
over those passages of less than ten days.
The Collins line perished not alone by British competition,
but also by the perils of the deep. The loss of the ' Arctic' in
1854, through a collision with the French steamer * Vesta,* was
followed by the mysterious disappearance in 1856 of the
* Pacific' She, like the * President,* left no hint behind her of
her fate. The Collins Company, however, in spite of the fine
fleet which by this time the Cunard Company had built and
launched, continued to run their ships down to 1858, but at
ruinous loss, and the honourable, unfortunate, spirited under-
taking then collapsed.
It is by contrast that advance is illustrated. This is
particularly true of the ship. Only a very faint idea of a vessel
can be conveyed in words. I speak of her extraordinary sheer
134 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
aft, her foremast stepped in the fore peak, her mizzen-mast
stepped in the lazarette, her scantling of prodigious thickness,
and so on ; and what impression is it possible for me to con-
vey ? It is the artist alone who can tell to the unprofessional
eye the story of the progress of the ship. I recently attempted
to describe the * Washington ' : let my poor word-picture of
her stand side by side with this charming sketch of a Cape
mail steamer leavinor Madeira.
Here seem a mould and form of hull which you might
think the builders would find it hard to go beyond. Do I
mean in beauty ? Certainly not. This shape of vessel is a
mere wedge, albeit the Cape steamers, I understand, are built
with a little more beam in proportion to their length than other
mail boats, not with the idea of heightening the comfort of men
and women, but to suit the requirements of berthing in the Cape
docks. But, taking the iron hull as something to be driven at
varying speeds through calms and through storms, quitting port
with the punctuality of the railway, one might admit that no
better shape could be given to that same iron hull than that we
find in this picture of a Cape steamer. Beauty is the very last
feature to be considered. The first of the * tramps ' undertook
to tow that divinity out to sea; it did so, and drowned her,
and she lies a corpse under countless gliding iron keels. Build
so that your boat shall want to fly into the air, to the strain of
her mighty engines grinding in her heart with hollow clangour
of sone, as thouirh the demon of steam never could shake his
iron ribs enough when he thought of the days of tacks and
sheets, and how captains swore when a head wind came. So
to build involves considerations which neglect all thought of
the eye. The eye, if it wants to be gratified, must go below :
there it will find the electric light ; rich, immovable furniture,
glowing mirrors, and skylight domes filled with heavenly
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 137
flowers. You knock nowadays on the door of a ship for beauty,
and when you are let in you find it, if you are a lover of up-
holstery. One, of course, admits the necessity of the wedge
shape, the straight stem, the wall side, and other details which
do not belong to the past. Yet, though it is a good thing to-
be able to reach Cape Town in a little more than a fortnight^
and though it is a still better thing to be able to reach New
York or Liverpool across the Atlantic in five days something
hours something minutes and one second, you cannot, if you are
a sailor, or a landsman who has travelled in sailing ships of old
and observed — you cannot, I say, but grieve a little when you
think of the shapes of beauty which have gone beyond the
horizon to their graves, and haunt the ocean only as phantoms
to the contemplative mind. Nothing that is beautiful with
wings is left to us but the yacht. The iron sailing ship need
not thrust herself in. They show you the ' France ' — she was,,
a little while ago, the biggest sailing ship in the world (1894) ;
they may have launched a huger one since — they expect ad-
miration whilst you gaze ; you cannot admire, you cannot but
mourn. She is ugly enough, with her forest of spar, when
everything is furled, and all her gear is hauled taut and the
yards are squared by lift and brace — which is a rare manoeuvre
aboard a merchantman in this age ; but when they have sheeted
home and manned the halliards, — my precious eyes ! as the
great Mr. Dicky Suet, an actor of the last century, used to say,
— clews a fathom from the yard-arms ; here a top-gallantsail
arching into sheer monstrosity through cruel deprivation of
quite necessary midship cloths; there a topsail hanging like ar>
ill-fitting coat upon a man ; yonder a flying jib that, being set
by mistake, should have the captain's initials in its corner ;
elsewhere and elsewhere — all is blue sky or driving gloom be-
held through labour-saving interstices.
138 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
It is impossible to admire the typical iron sailing-ship ; and
that gives me the very best excuse in the world to own that,
if ever I should again go to sea as a passenger, I certainly
would not choose a craft that depended on nothing but her
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 139
T HAVE abstained from dealing in these papers with the
^ growth and progress of the ironclad ship of war. The
literature of this ship would fill her hold, and to name her is to
excite a hundred conflicting emotions and passions. The sub-
ject is much too vast for the humble pen of a merchant seafarer.
Those who might wish to hear briefly the story of the ironclad
should turn to * The British Fleet/ by Commander Robinson.
R. N. This work is a valuable epitome, and it is all about the
Navy. Lord Brassey, an original writer and a modest and fear-
less navigator, has dealt and, aided by the useful nautical expert,
continues to deal at large with the ironclad. It is difficult to
follow with interest a growth in which organic and radical
changes are constantly occurring. No man knows for certain,
unless it be the naval constructor, on what lines the ship of war
of twelve months or two years hence is to be built. The nation
is in the hands of the naval constructor, call him Sir Robert
Seppings, or Sir William Symonds, or Sir E. J. Reed, or Sir
W. H. White. He is usually a genius and a person of admir-
able parts as a theorist ; but it seems to me, as surely it must
have struck many others, that when he goes to work to construct
a new ship of war, the very last feature that troubles him is her
seaworthiness. That she will roll fifty degrees in a gale of
wind ; that she will slaughter her sailors by driving them help-
less down one furious incline, then down the other ; that her
office who are sailors will be thinking of their prayers whilst
I40 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
they watch her behaviour, which might be that of a drowning
camel : these are features of the building of the ship which
appear to stand last with the naval constructor in the catalogue
of things to be avoided. A man, when he designs a ship,
should, at least, first of all provide that she shall float when
launched ; next, that she shall be able to keep the sea in heavy
weather ; next, that her behaviour in tempestuous times shall
be seaworthy enough to leave officers and men in full posses-
sion of their senses, whether for the ship which they are hand-
ling or for the foe they may be fighting. Robinson Crusoe in
hacking out his first canoe overlooked the little subsequent
business of launching her.
It would seem that as the ironclad departs from the original
ship-form, such as the artist has sketched, she grows more
and more dangerous to the people in her, because the naval
constructor never seems to provide that she shall be account-
able for her behaviour in stormy weather. He sends some-
thing to sea, and Jack, half-stifled, is under water in it. A
turret is visible awash : frightful pieces of ordnance point long
and leanly to the sky ; add a pole mast and a military top,
and call the whole a man-of-war. The theory of the naval
constructor moves at a costly figure in this extraordinary
departure. He would secure the sailor's life against the shot
of the enemy by clapping him up in a ship which threatens at
every lurch in a moderate sea to go to the bottom. It is the
same case as that of the Irish sentry, who, seeing another in
the act of cutting his throat, shot him to save his life. The old
sailors fought in rolling seas. It may be supposed that the
sailors of our own age will have to do the same thing. How
will they manage ? The Bluejacket's case is quite straight-
forward and intelligible. ' Give us a ship ; give us something
which will look like a ship : give us something in which we can
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 141
fight an enemy, even if it were blowing a treble-reefed topsail
breeze. Plan therefore, first of all, with an eye to a greater
enemy than any this country is likely to find in foreign nations —
142 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
I mean the sea,' says Navy Jack ; * plan first for the sea ! then
belt and double belt and make all shell-proof as you are now
trying to do/
It must be said that the earlier steamships were built with a
clear conception of the dangers of the sea. The * Forth ' and
the * Amazon/ both belonging to the same company, the Royal
Mail, were tall, handsome, wooden ships, sitting very lofty
upon the water, and rigged proportionately to their bulk. The
* Forth ' was 1,900 tons gross, or 1,147 ^^^s register, and 450
nominal horse-power. The company to which these ships
belonged was subsidised to the amount of nearly 85,000/. a
year by the British Government, who desired the creation of a
class of merchant steamer which could be of use in war time.
No money was spared in the construction of the ships of the
Royal Mail. Forms which seemed the handsomest afloat to
the eyes of that generation were chosen ; they were enginedby
the best makers, they were richly furnished within, and with-
out they looked as imposing as men-of-war.
Extraordinary ill-luck, however, attended the early ships of
this company. In a few years they lost, by shipwreck, the
' Isis,' ' Tweed,' ' Solway,' ' Forth,' * Actaeon,' and * Medina.'
But the most memorable of these disasters was to follow. I arfa
looking at a picture of the ' Amazon,' and cannot imagine that
any hull could possess more grace on the basis of so much
beam, disfigured as she is, moreover, by the over-hanging pent-
houses of the paddle-boxes. She was 300 feet long, 41 feet
wide, and 32 feet deep, and her gross burden was 3,000 tons.
This noble ship was built by the Greens at Blackwall, and was
launched in June 1851. She went round to Southampton in
command of Captain Symons, and sailed early in January for
the West Indies, with fifty passengers and over one hundred of
a crew. When in the Bay of Biscay, fire broke out ; the
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 143
* Amazon ' was a wooden ship ; the appliances for subduing fire
were crude ; they passed buckets along, until the leap of the
red flame drove the unhappy people forward or aft, and so the
ship was lost. She makes, then, one of the wildest pictures
In the maritime annals. They could not stop the engines ; it
was blowing a gale of wind, and the ungovernable vessel rushed
over the midnight sea, lighting up the ocean for leagues with
the flames which had burst through the gangway in front of the
foremost funnel. A great number of people were drowned
when the * Amazon * sank. Whether, if she had been built of
iron, her people would have stood a better chance for their
lives is doubtful, in spite of the case of the * Sarah Sands '
which ship, though gutted by fire into a shell, w^as safely con-
veyed to a port.
Wood was the obligation imposed upon the company with
the Government subsidv. When the State suffered the direc-
tors of the Royal Mail to build as they pleased (by this time
growing a little doubtful whether wood was preferable to iron
for purposes of war) the company addressed themselves to iron,
and discarded the paddle-wheel for the propeller ; and from that
day down to this, the ships of the Royal Mail, though compara-
tively small, undoubtedly float first amongst the beauties of
Two very fine ships are the * Norman ' and the ' Scot,* both
belonging to the Union Steamship Company.^ They are
designed for the South African trade, a hot trade when once
the Bay is cleared ; but all that can cool perspiring humanity,
all that may delight the eye in the shape of sumptuous equip-
ment, combine in these ships. They are graceful structures.
They sit with that sort of airy buoyancy which suggests the
traffic of the tropics. A trip to the Cape will probably prove
THE SHIP: HER STORY.
some of these days the most popular of all voyages. The ships
are staunch, splendid, and swift ; the journey is not tediously
long ; the sea-sweetened climates through which the passenger
is carried are full of health and life, and the heavens are glori-
ous by night and full of stars. You behold the Southern Cross
and witness many spacious and magnificent sunsets, and also
the lunar-dawn, which is the tenderest revelation of the deep.
Nothing is more interesting than the first ships of great
THE * CALAIS-DOUVRES ' IN A CHANNEL FOG
companies — companies whose fleets are now calculated in
hundreds of thousands of tons, whose ships are like ironclads,
whose commanders and officers twinkle on the bridge or
quarter-deck in gilt and lace and buttons, just as though they
were lieutenants and commanders in the Royal Navy. I
believe, but I will not state positively, that the earliest steamer
owned by the Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company
was the * Royal Tar.* She was the first of the line of steamers
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 145
which ran about 1837 between London and the Peninsula.
They were doubtless glad on both sides of the water to get the
C * punctuality of steam. Prior to the existence of the Peninsular
' Company the mails were despatched by sailing vessels from
Falmouth to Lisbon once a week. As wind and weather did not
^ always* permit/ the mail-bags were occasionally a month over-
It The * Royal Tar* was not unlike the earlier steamers of the
General Steam Navigation Company, such as the *City of
Paris,' the *City of Boulogne,' the * Rhine,' and others whose
names I cannot now recall. She probably was a tough, well-
built boat, with paddle-boxes far forward, and such a sheer of
bow as makes her seem sagged. As the full-rigged ship is to
the coracle, so, we may say, are the beautiful giantesses of the
P. & O. Company to the * Royal Tar.* Certainly that early
mother, staggering with high funnel over the uncomfortable
seas of the Chops, would have a right to feel proud of her issue.
So of the magnificent steamships of the Cunard Line. The
* Britannia ' may be compared to the * Royal Tar ' in many
points of primitive equipment, if not in burthen, rig, and general
appearance — I mean that * Britannia* of the Cunard Line which
carried Dickens to Halifax and Boston in 1842. Behold her
progeny ! I know not why the nation should not take as much
pride and interest in the noble commercial steamships which
sail out of the Thames and the Mersey as it does, or professes
to do in the vessels of the State. We see these magnificent
steamers passing, we admire them hugely, we know what their
speed will be when they fairly get to sea ; and I say that as a
maritime people we ought not only to feel proud that such
fabrics are possessed in this country, but that we have builders
such as Harland & Wolff, Wigham, Richardson & Co.,
J. & G. Thompson, Hawthorn, Leslie & Co., and many
others, able to construct them.
146 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
The ship-yard of to-day is a sight, in times of activity, to
stir the blood of the most skiggish. The enormous fabric, ready
for launching, towers on high. The workmen, who have built
her of steel plates and angle-irons and glowing rivets, are
pigmies on her decks and dwarfs under her bends. The ear-
shattering clash of hundreds of hammers striking countless
pieees of metal sweeps ceaselessly from river s side to rivers
side. The buzzer lifts up its iron throat and delivers its
hideous summons ; the air is white with steam and black with
clowds of smoke ; and out of all this turmoil, this sooty scene
of the toil of thousands, many hidden, many visible, glides
some last magnificent steamship of ten thousand tons, by and
by to float away towards the American seaboard or the distant
Southern Ocean : a sumptuous ship, full of drawing-rooms and
boudoirs, and an engine-room of machinery exquisite in finish,
singing softly its song of the yard, but ceaselessly thrusting
onwards the huge shapely metal length with revolutions of
shining rods and shafts of the sureness and strength of any
force of nature.
Notice should be taken of the efforts which have from time
to time been made by the marine architect to mitigate the
miseries of sea-sickness. He has doubled his ship, and be has
slung his ship as in a cradle. To no purpose. The life of the
Channel steward remains an arduous one. Sea-sickness is not
to be conquered by the shipwright. If it was merely the rolling
motion that creates nausea, then a hammock or a cot would be
as sure a relief as a twin ship or a cradle-hung saloon. Sick-
ness is caused by the several motions of the sea combined ; and
the worst of these movements the builder cannot possibly deal
with — I mean the trough into which the ship falls, and the
liquid acclivity to whose frothing head she leaps.
It is not strange to find that the twin ship was anticipated
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 149
as an idea so long back as 1663. She was built by Sir William
Petty, a man of genius, of great inventive powers, who, when
he was only fifteen years of age, had mastered the Latin, Greek,
and French tongues, *the whole body of common arithmetic,
the practical geometry and astronomy conducing to navigation,
dialling, etc., with the knowledge of several mechanical and
mathematical trades/ So says old Anthony a Wood. This
learned and ingenious man made an experiment in ships.
Dr. Sprat, in his ' History of the Royal Society,' declares that
* it was the most considerable experiment that has been made
in this age of experiments.* Dr. Sprat rejoiced rather too heart-
ily. Petty's double ship was by no means a success. It is
claimed for her that she was very quick in stays, and her
double bottom caused her to sit very stiff. She was lost in a
gale of wind. Petty does not appear to have been disheartened.
He devoted many years to musing upon a new model, and
finally designed, or actually produced, something which caused
Dr. Wood, in a letter to Sir Peter Pett,^ to say : ' If we con-
sider the strength (in every vessel), the burden, ballast, draught
of water, sailing, steering, keeping to wind, and as many more
properties of a good ship, his excels the best the world has yet
produced' ; and he puts Petty's case thus : * A common single
body being given, suppose of seventy tons neat burden, with
thirty tons of ballast ; we offer to make a double body which
needs no ballast — viz., to carry as much sail light as the other
loaden, of the same or more neat burthen ; but its drauQfht of
water shall be as 4 to 7, and the cost as 7 to 1 1, and shall bear
sail as 1 1 to 7.*
The enthusiasm of the inventor is proverbial. Petty's ship
has gone the way of Petty himself, yet in that old double-bottom
1 Not to be confused with Sir William Petty, who was one of the founders
of the Royal Society.
I50 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
we find a sort of forerunner of the well-known Channel steamer
our artist has drawn.
The * Castalia * should be named here as an experiment in
shipbuilding. She was composed of the two halves of a longi-
tudinally divided hull 290 feet long, set 26 feet apart, strongly
girded, with cabins enclosed, and a raised deck. The paddles
revolved in a water-way between the two hulls. She was
designed by Captain Dicey, who founded her upon the out-
riggers which ply in the harbour of Galle — * long, cranky boats,
hollowed out of tree-trunks, and steadied in the water by a
log of timber fixed to the end of two wooden outriggers which
project some way from the vessel's side.'
The * Bessemer,' a ship well within living memory, was
designed by Mr. (now Sir) E. J. Reed with the humane inten-
tion of diminishing the sufferings of the sea-sick. The * Bes-
semer* was an iron vessel, built at Hull by Earle's Shipbuilding
and Engineering Company : for forty-eight feet from each end
she had a freeboard of about three feet only. She was 350 feet
long; her shape, like the boat of the whaler, was the same fore
and aft. She was fitted with deck-houses for private parties,
and refreshment bars. The swinging saloon, however, was the
grand feature of this remarkable ship, which, in her picture, in
many respects presents the appearance of a turreted ironclad
of scarce, perceptible height of side. The saloon was in the
centre of the vessel, and was entered by staircases which con-
ducted to a landing held to the saloon by a flexible flooring.
The body of the saloon swayed on four steel supports. The
ship's speed on trial across the Channel did not show anything
in excess of that of the ordinary boats, which were then making
the passage in two hours. Mr. Bessemer, after whom this ves-
sel was named, does not appear to have spoken very enthusias-
tically about her, when at a dinner given to him in Calais he
said : * I never dared to hope that at first this ship would be com-
ATES CRUISER ' COLUMBIA
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 153,
pletely successful, so much depends on skill ; and you must re-
member that there are no means whereby absolute automatic
action can be given to the saloon, because there is no absolute
point of stability. Within the ship we are like Archimedes,
who wanted a fulcrum for the lever that was to move the world :
what we want is to place our fulcrum in an absolutely quiet
spot. ... In port the machinery will move with a degree of
steadiness that is all that can be desired ; the very reverse of this
will take place at sea, when the vessel itself moves and the cabin
is required to be quiet ; and just as we require more practice to
move the cabin in still water, so we require more practice to
keep the cabin still in the moving ship.'
The * Bessemer ' proved even a greater failure than the
* Castalia.' They were costly experiments, and their bold
originators deserved better luck. No doubt the swinging cabin
was a little alarming. If anything should give way ! Intend-
ing passengers must also have reflected that they would go
down with this swinging cabin into the yawning gulfs and rise
with it to the mountain peaks, and their distress of two hours
lay in that.
Another curiosity in shipbuilding was the cigar-ship, built
at Baltimore in 1858. Her constructors afterwards built a
similar vessel on the Thames. She was a huge, tapering iron
tube, without bows to resist the seas, without stern to drag the
the water, without masts, spars, or rigging to hold the wind.
She was 16 feet broad and 180 feet long. The theoretical
designer is always governed by very exact ideas as to the
qualities of his ship on paper: there she is a miracle; there
she glides with the buoyancy of a gull over billows of Andean
altitude ; her speed is prodigious ; in short, she is going to
revolutionise the ship. But, to paraphrase Johnson's observa-
tion on gratitude, the ship is a flower of very slow cultivation^
be she of wood or be she of steel.
154 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
There is proportion, there is power, there is the character
of warlike menace — in short, there is the good sense of the
combined yards — in the ' Columbia,' the pride of her country.
At how many knots is she slashing through it in the artist's
delightful picture of her ? Her designer had no cigar-ship in
his head when he planned her. Alas ! the cigar-ship went the
way of the * Castalia' and the ' Bessemer ' ; she wanted stability.
No seaman, indeed, could have endured such a shape ; yet
the builders were very positive in their hopes. * No water,'
said they, ' can be shipped that will sensibly affect the load or
endanger the safety of the vessel, which may, we believe, be
propelled at its highest speed in rough weather with impunity
— which is far from being attainable by vessels now built to
be propelled wholly or in part by sails.'
No man need live many years to witness the rise and the
decline of a great number of human inventions, particularly
marine inventions. I will say nothing of the Channel Tunnel,
w^hich is not an invention — though I wish it so well that I
would heartily like to see the short scope already bored,
plugged, cemented, and effectually stopped by the personal
toil of the originators of the scheme. I have lived to see a
ship built like a whale, and I have also lived to see her crew
step ashore and swear that not pounds a week nor the sternest
threats of the magistrate could induce them to return. I have
lived to meet a man who, with all spiritual solemnity, con-
templated, at his own cost (and that of a few others), the
erection of a floatincr tower or lighthouse in mid-Atlantic
whence the keepers of the light could, from the rolling summit,
telegraph the state of the weather east and west. I have been
spared to behold many queer forms of ships, the most uncouth
\vhich do undoubtedly fly the proud cross of St. George, as
Dana calls the flag. Whether any human being now drawing
breath will live to see the armour-clad man-of-war arrive at
THE SHIP: HER STORY. 155
that sort of perfection which was attained by our fleets of wood,
who can tell ? The ironclad of to-day, although many years
of experience already enter into her construction, remains
an experiment. She is the * Comet,* she is the 'Charlotte
Dundas/ of the close of the nineteenth century. Nor is it
conceivable that a naval war will settle the score of problems
which the change from the state of the old * Victory ' to the
state of H. M. S. * Benbow ' or H. M. S. 'Trafalgar' submits
to the naval constructor and the marine strategist. An
ingenious naval expert is of opinion, for example, that the
manoeuvres of a steam fleet will not differ very materially from
the tactics employed by Howe, Duncan, and Nelson. He be-
lieves that a line of battleships drawn up in a new moon or
crescent, in the order of the Spanish Armada when it sailed
in the Channel, in the order of the combined fleets of France
and Spain when they lay with their topgallant-sails shivering
awaiting the slow approach of the British, will pause for the
attack of the enemy ; and that enemy must of course, consis-
ently with tradition, be the British. The expert believes that
we will cut the line as of yore — that we shall be allowed to
cut the line. He quotes Vice-Admiral P. H. Colomb^ and
another. He does not tell us what the lee division of the
enemy will do after he has allowed the British to repeat the
manoeuvre of Nelson.
In truth, the soot from the funnel of the ironclad has black-
ened the atmosphere. We see very imperfectly. Grotesque
shapes float by. We strain our sight at the naval construc-
tors last embodiment. We hope for the best ; but few men
in their senses can suppose that the ships which are to bear
the national flag of our country in the next century will in the
^ An officer to whom every student of naval literature must be grateful. And
the thanks of the student are equally due to Professor J. K. Laughton.
156 THE SHIP: HER STORY.
least degree resemble those experimental arks of horror and
menace (to those cooped up in them) which in these times roll
off shore as they wash along their way to their stations. The
eye turns for solace to the ' Victory," as she lies at rest. The
peace of the grave is hers. They may go on re-doctoring her
till there remains not an inch of the timber which resoimded
Nelson's cannon, whose echoes of thunder fetched a sigh of
pain from the lips of the dying chieftain. Yet, let them con-
tinue rebuilding her for ever ; for what can transcend her as
a memory, an impulse, an influence? The hearts-of-oak of
to-day are worthy of their sires ; and all must wish that, like
their sires, they may be permitted to fight the battle of their
country in ships they can grow attached to, in ships which
will look ships and behave as ships, in ships which shall
prove an anxiety to the enemy only.
There must happen before long one greater revolution in the
story of the ship than we have yet witnessed. The ship of war
is no longer a ship, but a machine, and a machine that is
rendered more complex every year. This complexity of
machinery demands an application of intellect which must be
sought for in vain in the Nelson traditions. No man who loves
the full-rigged ship as I do can deplore more greatly, in the
name of memory, heroism, and beauty, the extinction of those
tall and glorious fabrics which flew the flags of our great ad-
mirals. But though our love is with the past, our expectations
must repose upon the future ; and that future inexorably means
this — that the machine will be handed over to the machinist,
and that the Royal Naval Engineers will take up the tale of
the quarter-deck, and perpetuate the traditions of the Mistress
of the Seas as our fighting Engineers. Ere long the canvas
of H. M. S. * Britannia' will be seen flickering in the ocean
recess, hanging star-like, remote, then vanishing for ever.
The country will not need men supplied by this sort of train-
ing ship. It will want engineers for the engine-room, and en-
gineers for the bridge and its tactics, and engineers for the guns.
And if the Bluejacket is present he will be required in small
force only. And if the Marine is perpetuated it will be out
158 • THE SHIP: HER STORY„
of love of tradition, because, depend upon it, the fighting
stokers, and the people who have to work all other parts of
that great complex machine, the man-of-war, will suffice. I
close this note with a sigh, for I love the past, and find noth-
ing to interest me in the giantess of 16,000 tons displacement.